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SAT Vocabulary

Try out 50 free SAT Vocab words below

abhor

verb

Definition: Detest, hate

Memory Trick:

AbHOR sounds just HORrid, which is how you would feel about someone you abhor.

See it in Action:
  • Mitchell claimed to abhor soap operas, but they somehow always appeared on her TIVO.
  • "I abhor every commonplace phrase by which wit is intended." (From Shmoop's Sense and Sensibility Learning Guide)

adamant

adjective

Definition: Persistent, stubborn, unmoving



Memory Trick:

Adam Ant was the finest insect superhero in history. He was always sure of his mission. 

"Adamant" sounds a little like "cement," which stays put no matter how hard you kick at it. (Ouch!) 

This comes from the Latin "adamantem," which means "the hardest metal" and is also where we get the word "diamond." Someone who feels adamant doesn't give a...darn...about what anyone else has to say. Think Admiral William Adama from Battlestar Galactica.

See it in Action:
    • Tiger was adamant that the putt broke left even though his caddy told him it broke right.
    • The girl was adamant about not seeing the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter books—she insisted they would ruin the story for her.
    • Ellison was adamant that his book was not an autobiographical novel; it was a novel about the search for identity. (From Shmoop's Invisible Man Learning Guide)

assuage

verb

Definition: Relieve, ease pain or other negative feelings


Memory Trick:

AsSUAGE sounds like SWAY. Picture a parent rocking a baby to sleep.

See it in Action:
  • Calvin tried to assuage his boss's anger over the collapsed bridge by offering him one of his bologna sandwiches. 
  • The posthumous release of This Is It somewhat assuaged the grief of Michael Jackson's mourners. 
  • Just a glimpse of Catherine would assuage the long-suffering Heathcliff, who believes in communication beyond the grave. (From Shmoop's Wuthering Heights Learning Guide) 

bemused

adjective

Definition: Mildly amused, lost in thought or delight

Memory Trick:

One can BE aMUSED by something else while the professor is talking.

See it in Action:
  • He constantly wore a bemused expression; everyone thought he was a genius, but he was really just thinking about his girlfriend.
  • Mr. Bennet is frequently a bemused spectator in the midst of unpleasant situations—namely, his marriage—but he always has some pithy comment or observation to voice. (From Shmoop's Pride and Prejudice Learning Guide)

bereft

adjective

Definition: Missing, without



Memory Trick:

BEREFT sounds like THEFT. In both cases, something ends up missing.

See it in Action:
  • I was absolutely bereft when the Miami Dolphins won only six games, but then I realized, hey, at least they're not Detroit.  
  • Stuck at his grandparents' house and bereft of his South Park DVDs, he decided to pick up a book instead. 
  • Obi felt bereft of his culture and denied his language, especially when he had to speak the language of the colonizer with other Africans abroad. (From Shmoop's No Longer at Ease Learning Guide)

camaraderie

noun

Definition: Spirit of friendship



Memory Trick:

Think of the word COMRADE, a term used to address someone who is your friend.

See it in Action:
  • The camaraderie among the football players made the New England Patriots a dominant team in 2007, until the New York Giants showed that good old-fashioned enmity wins Super Bowls.
  • I didn't know my hole card from my elbow, but I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the weekly poker game.
  • What do you think of Buck's camaraderie with the sled dogs as compared to his camaraderie with the wolves? (From Shmoop's The Call of the Wild Learning Guide)

chide

verb

Definition: Scold

Memory Trick:

Charlie childishly CHIDED Charlene because she wouldn't go out with him. The next day, when Charlene saw Charlie at school, she decided to HIDE rather than be cHIDEd again.

The child would rather hide than be chided for refusing to eat chives.

See it in Action:
  • I chided my dog because she flunked her latest round of obedience school.
  • The history teacher chided her students for not doing their homework.
  • If Huck and Jim are going to be free, they must take care of themselves. Or, as the Widow Douglas would probably chide (inspired by Spiderman's Uncle Ben), "With freedom comes responsibility." (From Shmoop's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Learning Guide)

deleterious

adjective

Definition: Harmful, bad for your health

Memory Trick:

Something DELETErious is bad for you: you should DELETE it. 

An infected computer file is deleterious and should be deleted.

See it in Action:
  • H1N1 is a deleterious virus; it can make you very sick.
  • Creating the monster results in being deleterious for Victor Frankenstein's family. (From Shmoop's Frankenstein Learning Guide)

endanger

verb

Definition: Expose someone or something to danger, put at risk


Memory Trick:

Break the word down, and it sounds like "in danger." 

If you tell people you are related to Rodney DANGERfield, you may be enDANGERing your career as a dramatic actor.

See it in Action:
  • The crafty wolf endangered the three little pigs, but they outsmarted him by going into construction. 
  • Already in enough trouble himself, Damon did not want to further endanger his girlfriend by telling her the name of the gangster with whom he had become associated. He got her to guess the name via a game of charades instead.
  • Stubb doesn't really mean to endanger Pip's life. He assumes that one of the other boats will pick him up, but those boats sight other whales and sail after them. (From Shmoop's Moby-Dick Learning Guide)

fastidious

adjective

Definition: Super picky, precise, exacting



Memory Trick:

If you are fasTIDIous, you are probably very TIDY

Don't clean the house too FAST, or the FASTidious owner will not be satisfied.

See it in Action:
  • Double-checking to make sure that no hair was out of place was merely part of his fastidious nature; once he had finished with his nose, he could move on to his ears.
  • While a bit aggravating, the wedding planner's fastidious ways achieved results; the party was a huge success.
  • The most important thing about Absolon is that he's extremely tidy and fastidious and pays great attention to his personal grooming. He always makes sure that his hair is combed nicely, his breath smells sweet, and his shirt is free from wrinkles. (From Shmoop's The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Learning Guide)

fortuitous

adjective

Definition: Fortunate, lucky

Memory Trick:

Her FORTUne cookie told her she was about to experience a FORTUitous windfall. 

FORTUitious and FORTUnate sound similar, and they are.

See it in Action:
  • It was fortuitous that he had decided to wear underwear that morning because the fraternity was not messing around with that hazing business. 
  • Though Henry was initially upset that he was arriving late and missing dinner, his timing was fortuitous because he arrived just in time for dessert—which was all he really wanted anyway.
  • He thinks about all the fortuitous events that precipitated his and Tereza's getting together. (From Shmoop's The Unbearable Lightness of Being Learning Guide)

genial

adjective

Definition: Well-meaning, friendly

Memory Trick:

A friendly GENIe who granted all your wishes without complaint would be GENIal.

Her family members were all pleasantly GENial, so it was clearly in her GENes to be that way as well.

See it in Action:
  • It pained Robert to have to be genial to the man who had stolen his girlfriend, but the ransom note specifically mentioned that Robert had to be nice to him in addition to delivering the money.
  • The seemingly genial contestant on Survivor was actually a backstabbing traitor and ended up winning the competition. 
  • The persona Reagan cultivated as president—genial and patriotic, simple and optimistic—wasn't much different from many of the inspirational roles he had played in his younger days. (From Shmoop's The Reagan Era Learning Guide)

gratuitous

adjective

Definition: Unnecessary, way more than is necessary

Memory Trick:

GRATUITy is a word often used for the tip you give a waiter. It's not necessary, but it's nice.

See it in Action:
  • As her sister sat on the bed in tears, Jan made the gratuitous comment, "You look sad."  
  • Peter charged for his famous shoe shine, but the update about the state of his goiter was entirely gratuitous.  
  • The show is known for its gratuitous sex scenes and attempts to expand the boundaries of acceptability. (From Shmoop's "The Sick Rose" Learning Guide)

hierarchy

noun

Definition: System of ranking

Memory Trick:

Think HIGHER-ARCHY: Who is higher up than you? Who are you higher than?

See it in Action:
  • The hierarchy in our exclusive club was such that whoever brought a new comic book to the tree house was immediately installed as president.  
  • Within a few hours, the new Survivor castaways had organized a power hierarchy with leaders and followers.  
  • The Spanish viewed Africans as lower on the racial hierarchy than American Indians. (From Shmoop's Spanish Colonization Learning Guide)

humane

adjective

Definition: Ethical, respectful, especially of people and living things


Memory Trick:

HUMANe is related to HUMAN. The idea is that people should treat other people as human beings and be nice to animals as well, just as people are at the Humane Society.

See it in Action:
  • The humane thing to do would have been to stop running up the score on the other football team, but Coach Kramer wasn't in the business to make friends.  
  • Angelina Jolie is an example of a celebrity who campaigns on behalf of organizations that work to make the world a more humane place.  
  • Dickens also exposes how callous and uncaring Victorian society was; folks ignored the plight of the less fortunate because they were so convinced that the systems they had in place to take care of the poor were the best and most humane systems possible. (From Shmoop's Oliver Twist Learning Guide)

impartial

adjective

Definition: Unbiased, even in judgment, immune to charms or biases


Memory Trick:

"Im" means "not," and "partial" means "liking." Being impartial means that you DON'T like either PART more than the other.

See it in Action:
  • It was hard for Judge Owens to remain impartial when the defense attorney gave him homemade zucchini bread and the prosecutor only gave him the business.  
  • Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law. (From Shmoop's Executive Branch Learning Guide)

impotent

adjective

Definition: Powerless, unable to continue, emasculated

Memory Trick:

Think of POTENT as meaning "strong" like a POTion—then add the IM, which means "not."

See it in Action:
  • As their tennis match wore on, Todd's serves became so impotent that Ralph started playing from the same side of the net. 
  • 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy might be the most powerful TV executive in existence, but he remains impotent in the face of his mother's disapproval. 
  • [Thomas Gage] went from being the most powerful man in North America (in 1774) to an impotent general incapable of securing victory against colonial rabble-rousers, despite the fact that he had the world's most powerful military at his disposal. (From Shmoop's Thomas Gage in the American Revolution Learning Guide)

jurisprudence

noun

Definition: Philosophy or theory of law

Memory Trick:

Think of a gal named PRUDENCE who is in charge of everything that has to do with the law. She's in charge of JURIES, legal books, gavels, trials, and everything else you can think of. You want to respect her.

See it in Action:
  • The Supreme Court's power of judicial review is key to American jurisprudence.  
  • All lawyers know about jurisprudence, but only some have heard of ethics.  
  • The Cruikshank case proved hugely important for the Second Amendment. It placed a state's interpretation of the amendment at the center of federal jurisprudence and denied that the amendment provided any sort of individual right to own guns. (From Shmoop's Right to Bear Arms Learning Guide)

kin

noun

Definition: Family, a relative or relatives

Memory Trick:

You should be KINd to your KIN and to KINdred spirits.

See it in Action:
  • Thanks goodness you get to pick your friends, because your kin is for keeps. (No, Aunt Bessie is not optional.)  
  • "'Aunty,' Jem spoke up, 'Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't.'" (From Shmoop's To Kill a Mockingbird Learning Guide)

laconic

adjective

Definition: Terse, saying a lot in just a few words

Memory Trick:

Someone who is LAConic LACks words.

See it in Action:
  • My Uncle Pele has a laconic way of speaking; the only words I ever hear him say are, "It is good to see you."  
  • When Kanye West recorded "Through the Wire," his mouth was wired. His rapping is much more slurred and perhaps a bit more monotonous than his usual laid-back, but not laconic, flow. (From Shmoop's "Through the Wire" Learning Guide)

laggard

adjective

Definition: Lagging, slow to move or respond

Memory Trick:

A LAGgard is a person who LAGs behind.

See it in Action:
  • Laggard Laura fell behind the group, missed the bus, and had to spend the night at Penn Station.  
  • "We all were motionless and fixed upon / the notes, when all at once the grave old man [Cato] / cried out: 'What have we here, you laggard spirits? / What negligence, what lingering is this?'" (From Shmoop's "Purgatorio" Learning Guide)

Laudable

adjective

Definition: Worthy of praise

Memory Trick:

If it's LAUDABLE, it's appLAUDABLE.

See it in Action:
  • Although George Lucas made a laudable effort to continue the Star Wars series with Episodes 1-3, it's generally agreed that the three original movies are significantly better.
  • To do good work is laudable; to be paid for it is divine.
  • As contemporary readers, we wince at [George Shelby's] paternalism; he treats his slaves like dependent children. Yet his desire to help educate and rehabilitate them, instead of simply throwing them out into the world, is laudable. (From Shmoop's Uncle Tom's Cabin Learning Guide)

lave

verb

Definition: Wash

Memory Trick:

The verb "wash" is "laver" in French and "lavar" in Spanish.

See it in Action:
  • Before the discovery of germs and the invention of antibiotics, the process of laving soldiers' wounds often made them worse off.
  • People used to lave; now they wash.  
  • When his new red Mustang got egged, he used his whole Saturday to gently lave the car's expensive paint job.

lax

adjective

Definition: Laid-back, loose, not strict

Memory Trick:

When something's LAX, everyone can reLAX

Surfers put the LAX in chilLAX. LAXatives put the…you know what, forget it.

See it in Action:
  • I'm glad that my parents are so lax about enforcing my midnight curfew. They never yell at me, even if I get home at three in the morning.  
  • All of the government's lax policies until 1763 had enabled the colonists to enjoy an economic freedom that they took for granted by the time it was torn away from them. (From Shmoop's Intellectual Roots of the American Revolution Learning Guide)

mercurial

adjective

Definition: Quick to action, volatile, fickle, prone to frequent change, zippy


Memory Trick:

MERCURial sounds like MERCURy, an element known as QUICKsilver because it is a silvery liquid. 

The temperature had changed so many times in the past week that the MERCURy in the thermometer had never before exhibited such MERCURial behavior.

See it in Action:
  • She was in a mercurial frame of mind about dinner. One moment she wanted Mexican food; the next, she wanted burgers and fries. Her friends decided to drive her quickly to the local burger joint before she changed her mind again.  
  • Since the beginning of her pregnancy, her mood had grown increasingly mercurial.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger shows Holden's mercurial changes of mood and his stubborn refusal to admit his own sensitivity and emotion. (From Shmoop's The Catcher in the Rye Learning Guide)

misanthrope

noun

Definition: Someone who dislikes people, hater of mankind


Memory Trick:

"Mis" as a prefix means "wrong" and "anthro" refers to man, so a misanthrope believes people are wrong. 

The misanthROPE would tie every human being's mouth closed with a ROPE if he could.

See it in Action:
  • Misanthropes are horrible people to be around but hilarious to watch on TV.  
  • Susan considered him a miserable misanthrope; she didn't trust him and couldn't stand him, the same as every other person on the planet.  
  • The wonder is not that Mark Twain so often preaches the doctrine of despair during his later life, but that he does not exemplify it: that he does not in fact become a misanthrope. (From Shmoop's Mark Twain: Biography Learning Guide)

nonchalant

adjective

Definition: Cool, mellow, unconcerned, distant, remote



Memory Trick:

"Chal" is short for "chaleur," which means "warmth" in French. Being non-warm is, well, just cool. 

My dentist was pretty noncHALANT when he told me he needed to administer an inHALANT before my procedure.

See it in Action:
  • He tried to remain nonchalant when his doctor arrived with the test results.  
  • His nonchalance, even in the face of extreme peril, was admirable, although he probably shouldn't have used a blowtorch on the terrorists in the middle of a chemical plant.  
  • Rabbit is nonchalant and feels calmer, free from his cramped apartment, but he wants to know where his car is. (From Shmoop's Rabbit, Run Learning Guide)

onerous

adjective

Definition: Burdensome, cumbersome, requiring a lot of effort


Memory Trick:

The straw that broke the camel's back was ONErous, even though it was only ONE straw.

I have many ONEROUS duties on my plate, but I am required by my sense of HONOR to complete them.

See it in Action:
  • The essay was hard enough without the professor's onerous requirement that we put our essays to music.  
  • His father's death had an onerous effect on Hamlet, but he was sure he could get through it as long as no one else died on him.  
  • New Englanders in Drear's time (probably the early 1800s to the 1860s) were known for their onerous, heavy-sounding names, at least in books. (From Shmoop's The House of Dies Drear Learning Guide)

ornate

adjective

Definition: Overly decorated, fancily detailed


Memory Trick:

"Or" is the chemical symbol for gold; things made out of gold are often ORnate.

I'm not sure who did it, but either David OR NATE placed the order for that ORNATE casket.

See it in Action:
  • The entire palace was decorated ornately; even the urinals in the men's bathroom were diamond-studded. 
  • They sat in ornate chairs as they sampled the old wine. 
  • Berowne is swearing off ornate speeches for love of Rosaline, but he can't help himself from "three-piling" words. (From Shmoop's Love's Labour Lost Learning Guide)

outlandish

adjective

Definition: Crazy, bizarre, out of this world


Memory Trick:

When you hear OUTLANDISH, think OUT OF THIS WORLD.

The preposterous way in which he had decorated his Mitsubishi OUTLANDer was truly OUTLANDISH.

See it in Action:
  • Her outlandish clothing covered a shy personality.  
  • It was the most outlandish attire they had ever seen anyone dare to wear to the Annual Clown Convention, and Peanut was asked not to return until he was wearing oversized shoes.
  • If you want to understand antebellum American culture, from the familiar to the outlandish, read on. (From Shmoop's Antebellum American Culture Learning Guide)

pall

noun

Definition: A dark or gloomy tone or atmosphere


Memory Trick:

A PALLbearer at a funeral has a very gloomy job.

See it in Action:
  • The athlete's broken foot cast a pall over the beginning of the Olympics because he was the only representative from Liechtenstein.
  • Grandma's sad news cast a pall over the rest of the evening; nobody could believe that Smallville wasn't being renewed for another season.  
  • He makes it clear that the events we're about to witness are told in retrospect, and this understanding casts a pall over the everyday occurrences we witness. (From Shmoop's Our Town Learning Guide)

panacea

noun

Definition: Miracle cure, solution for all disease



Memory Trick:

PANACEA comes from the Greek god of healing. If you are looking for a panacea, you might need to find a Greek god to supply it. 

My Italian father believes PAN pizza to be a PANacea for everyone's problems.

See it in Action:
  • The government was looking for a health care panacea, one that would cure everyone's illnesses without costing any money.  
  • Stuart insisted that cotton balls were a panacea, but realistically he may have just been a little overly enthused about how quickly they stopped up his nosebleed.
  • Is Shakespeare suggesting marriage is not a panacea or a cure-all way to resolve things? (From Shmoop's The Comedy of Errors Learning Guide)

Quagmire

noun

Definition: Literally, a muddy hole in the ground; metaphorically, a sticky situation


Memory Trick:

MIRE means mud. QUAGgy means swampy. If you're stuck in both, you're in quite the precarious situation. 

QUAGMIRE is a popular character on Family Guy who constantly puts himself in difficult situations.

See it in Action:
  • I told you not to take a left turn at the beach; now we're stuck in a quagmire in the Florida Everglades.  
  • Her gambling debts from her many games of poker put her in a financial quagmire. 
  • Hamlet spends most of the play trying to navigate his way out of a family quagmire. (From Shmoop's Hamlet Learning Guide)

quarrelsome

adjective

Definition: Often fighting

Memory Trick:

To QUARREL is to fight. 

QUARREL sounds like SQUIRREL. Have you ever tried taking away a piece of food from those pesky buggers? They'd be ready to fight you.

See it in Action:
  • There's nothing I like less than a quarrelsome squirrel.  
  • My bus was full of quarrelsome people today; all were ready to fight over seats.  
  • The quarrelsome women are acting toward Northumberland in the same way that he and the other the rebels are acting toward King Henry IV. (From Shmoop's Henry IV, Part 2 Learning Guide)

Query

verb

Definition: Inquire, ask

Memory Trick:

QUEry is another word for QUEstion.

See it in Action:
  • In response to your query, Allison: No, there is no Santa Claus.  
  • She queried her fiancé, "Where were you last night?"  
  • After Ewell settles back down in the witness chair, Atticus begins querying the evil man. (From Shmoop's To Kill A Mockingbird Learning Guide)

quiver

verb

Definition: Shake or move, tremble (verb); a case for arrows (noun)


Memory Trick:

QUIVER sounds just like SHIVER

QUIVER is also a word used to describe something that holds arrows. If you know either of these, you can picture Robin Hood on a cold night with only his spandex tights to keep him warm.

See it in Action:
  • All sorts of things make Sally quiver: cold showers, the sound of nails on a chalkboard, and just about anything gross she sees on the Internet.  
  • Marcus quivered when he heard the intruder.  
  • Judges and juries alike quiver in their boots when Jaggers takes the stage. (From Shmoop's Great Expectations Learning Guide)

reform

verb

Definition: Modify, change

Memory Trick:

When you FORM something, you create it. If you were given a chance to FORM that something again (say, a menu for the cafeteria), or RE-FORM it, you'd try to improve it.

See it in Action:
  • "It's not my fault," the cafeteria lady said. "You made no reforms to the school's lunch menu."  
  • The students want to reform the way history is taught at their school and learn about the Native American perspective.  
  • Even as the United States surged toward a new century of industrial strength and dynamism, it seemed that the nation faced a grave danger of coming apart at the seams. This was the world that the Progressives sought to reform. (From Shmoop's Progressive Era Politics Learning Guide)

revere

verb

Definition: Admire greatly, honor deeply


Memory Trick:

REVERE comes from REVEREnce.

See it in Action:
  • Maria revered her grandmother, the one person in Maria's life whose courage, honesty, and strength of character she never questioned.  
  • Our Founding Fathers were well read and had admirable hopes and dreams, but they were human beings, flawed and fallible, with their own sets of contradictions and shortcomings. This is not so much a reason to revere them any less as it is a testament to the fact that what they managed to accomplish should be all the more noteworthy, given that they were as human as the rest of us. (From Shmoop's Intellectual Roots of the American Revolution Learning Guide)

sagacity

noun

Definition: Wisdom, level-headedness


Memory Trick:

My grandfather, the SAGE of our family, is known for his SAGACITY

Think SeGA CITY, a place where everybody is wise and knows how to play video games with great discernment. Sonic the Hedgehog, for instance, would be a SAGACIOUS character that always knows when to jump or run.

See it in Action:
  • Nobody could match the sagacity of my wise old grandpa—and he always let us know it, too. 
  • We all respect Mr. G., our English teacher, for his sagacity.  
  • He feels at the height of his "power" and can't even believe his own "sagacity." (From Shmoop's "The Tell-Tale Heart" Learning Guide)

sanguine

adjective

Definition: Optimistic, upbeat, cheery


Memory Trick:

Someone who is sangUINE seems genUINEly cheerful. 

GUINEvere will probably never leave Arthur for him, but Lancelot has sanGUINE expectations nevertheless.

See it in Action:
  • Despite the news of his girlfriend's double life as a spy, he was surprisingly sanguine…or just in shock.  
  • We were all worried about taking the AP test, but Celia had a sanguine expression on her face. 
  • "All his sanguine expectations, all his confidence had been justified. His genius and ardour had seemed to foresee and to command his prosperous path." (4.8) (From Shmoop's Persuasion Learning Guide)

subtle

adjective

Definition: Understated, delicate


Memory Trick:

SUB means "below." Think of a SUBmarine diving below the surface of the sea. Something SUBtle has a lot going on below the surface that isn't visible upon first glance.

See it in Action:
  • The subtle aroma of Cheetos filled the motel's lobby.  
  • His subtle jabs were not missed by the redheaded girl. 
  • Why did we say that the Aeneid is only an endorsement of Augustus "on the surface"? Many scholars have come to believe that the Aeneid also contains many subtle (and some not-so-subtle) criticisms of Roman imperial power. (From Shmoop's Aeneid Learning Guide)

superfluous

adjective

Definition: Unnecessary; more than you need

Memory Trick:

"Super" suggests extra, and "fluous" makes us think of "fluff." Extra fluff is unnecessary.

See it in Action:
  • After he had thrown out the fifth box of stale bagels, he realized that two would have been enough; the rest were superfluous.
  • Wives seem kind of superfluous to this play. (From Shmoop's Julius Caesar Learning Guide)

transient

adjective

Definition: Temporary, transitory, not permanent

Memory Trick:

TRAINS are TRANSient, passing through towns and cities. If you are TRANSient, you probably use a lot of TRANSportation.

I was a TRANSient member of the team because I was TRANSferred to another team almost immediately.

See it in Action:
  • The speed date had been going so well that Tom wished it had not been so transient.  
  • Though we expected them to stay at the beach house for a year, the archeologists' visit turned out to be quite transient.  
  • The relationship on which the story focuses is indeed a transient one, built from a series of ephemeral meetings that are over as quickly and randomly as they began. Victor, the narrator of "Spring in Fialta," struggles to find meaning in these encounters despite their brevity. One of the story's possible conclusions is that life is as transient as the series of moments that comprise it. (From Shmoop's "Spring in Fialta" Learning Guide)

travesty

noun

Definition: A grotesque imitation of something


Memory Trick:

TRAVESTY sounds like TRAGEDY. A travesty is a tragically bad representation of something serious.

A very ugly VEST would indeed be a traVESTy of fine taste.

See it in Action:
  • "That vest is a travesty of fine taste," Marla said. "Those shorts, on the other hand, I like."
  • Her conviction was a travesty of justice. She was innocent.  
  • For some, this is all a sort of travesty; rock and roll, once a force of resistance against mainstream society, has been tamed, watered down and sold to the highest bidder. (From Shmoop's History of Rock and Roll Learning Guide)

vacillate

verb

Definition: Change, waver unresolvedly



Memory Trick:

Think <strong>OSCILLATE</strong>, as when a fan blows things every which way.

See it in Action:
  • When asked if she intended to break into his email account, Mandy vacillated between lies and the truth.  
  • She vacillated between the two candidates for the longest time but finally came to the decision that Senator Hagen was indeed the cuter one.  
  • Throughout the text, our feelings about Lennie vacillate almost as wildly as his actions. (From Shmoop's Of Mice and Men Learning Guide)

Vacuous

adjective

Definition: Empty, hollow, lacking content

Memory Trick:

A VACuum makes something empty of dirt. A VACuous person or thing is empty, too.

See it in Action:
  • I didn't realize how vacuous she was until I saw her using Wite-Out on her computer screen.
  • The vacuous lecture on the value of horror films was met with snores from the literati.
  • Some critics have long blasted Bon Jovi's songwriting as vacuous and cliché-ridden; however, the band has sold over 120,000,000 albums. (From Shmoop's "Livin' on a Prayer" Learning Guide)

vagabond

noun

Definition: A drifter or wanderer, possibly of suspect morals


Memory Trick:

"Va" means "go" in both French and Spanish. A VAGABOND is someone who is always on the GO and who carries BAGS full of his earthly possessions. 

A vagabond is like a vagrant who travels…like James Bond.

See it in Action:
  • It's the rare vagabond who subscribes to a magazine. 
  • The vagabond often spent nights on doorsteps or on the river's shore.  
  • Bon Jovi put that idea to music in the 1987 hit "Wanted Dead or Alive," which offered a mashup of trademark Bon Jovi pop-metal with classic Western sounds and imagery to describe the vagabond life of rock stars on tour. (From Shmoop's "Blaze of Glory" Learning Guide)

Variable

wary

adjective

Definition: Alert, careful

Memory Trick:

If you are AWARE, you are probably WARY as well.

See it in Action:
  • Being divorced four times made her wary of marriage.  
  • You should always be wary of a Ferrari-driving man who's collecting money for the poor.  
  • "Be wary then; best safety lies in fear: / Youth to itself rebels, though none else near." (From Shmoop's Hamlet Learning Guide)

zealot

noun

Definition: Fanatic

Memory Trick:

"ZEAL" means energy, passion, hunger—and it is A LOT.

See it in Action:
  • True zealots among Green Bay Packer fans refused to put on t-shirts until at least one Lambeau Leap had been made. Sadly for them, the Pack was playing the Colts; it was a long, cold game, and they were pale.  
  • Tom was a zealot when it came to fresh breath, but a mouthful of Tic Tacs makes it hard to understand what a guy is saying.  
  • It's really Karkov who's responsible for the transformation of Robert Jordan from a zealot with a puritanical dedication to the cause into the more disaffected, realistic, even-minded guy we know. (From Shmoop's For Whom the Bell Tolls Learning Guide) 

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