Splendiferous Vocabulary Words
With Definitions, Meanings, and Sentences
What are 'vocabulary words' anyway? The phrase seems redundant at first glance, since what other types of words could there possibly be that aren't vocabulary words?
Well, in the world of word games, you meet loads of useful obscurities...
- Crossword fillers like ETUI (a French sewing case),
- Scrabble dumps like CWM (a deep basin), and
- Spelling nightmares like GJETOST (a type of cheese).
But the thing is, for most of us at least, these words are only useful on games night.
Don't get me wrong, I love them all the same, but they are not what this page is about.
By vocabulary words, I mean words that you can use, and are reasonably likely to see being used, in daily life. You can use them to enrich your conversations and help you communicate your ideas and experiences more accurately, vividly, and more interestingly.
So on this page, I'm going to concentrate on words that convey something (a thing, an idea, an activity, or whatever) that most of us experience on a regular basis, but which most of us do not usually have the right word for.
You'll probably recognize some of these useful vocabulary words if you read novels regularly, since good authors make a habit of finding exactly the right word to convey the most subtle of ideas. But even if you've seen a word before, I would urge you to stop and think about it carefully.
Along the way, I want to show you the power of context. It turns out that the surrounding context of a word used in a sentence plays a far greater role in our ability to assimilate the word into our working vocabulary, than the formal definition.
In other words, seeing and learning a word's definition is far less important than gaining an understanding of a word's meaning through the sentences in which it is used.
To show you what I mean, in the following list of some of my favorite vocabulary words of all time, I've included a sample sentence or two for each word. Make sure you read both the formal definition of each word and the usage examples.
Even if you already know a word on this vocabulary list, I suspect you'll learn something about it you didn't already know...
Cool Vocabulary Words
ADHOCRACYn. a system of flexible and informal organization and management in place of rigid bureaucracy
The need for informational flexibility undermines old organisational structures: adhocracy takes over as leaders seek to bypass hierarchies.
APODICTICadj. of a proposition; necessarily true or logically certain
It has also been pointed out that the laws in the Old Testament may be classified as either apodictic in form ("thou shalt…" or "thou shalt not…") or "casuistic" ("when a man…, he shall…").
ASPERITYn. the quality of being hard to endure, uninviting or formidable
I dread the asperity of northern winters.
BEATITUDEn. a state of supreme happiness or blessedness
His face had taken on the expression of imbecile beatitude the religious sometimes adopt.
CAPRICIOUSadj. changeable; determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason
The capricious bride-to-be has a different church in mind for her wedding every few days.
CAPTIOUSadj. tending to find and call attention to faults
A captious attitude often causes difficulties in a relationship.
CHOLERICadj. easily moved to anger
Men of the choleric type take to kicking and smashing.
CORNUCOPIAn. goat's horn filled with grain and flowers and fruit symbolizing prosperity; the property of being extremely abundant
This is a time of abundance when bird, beast and insect gather to share the cornucopia.
DENOUEMENTn. the unraveling of a plot or story; the outcome of a complex sequence of events
I waited by the eighteenth green with thousands of spectators to see the denouement.
DILATORYadj. slow to act; intended to cause delay
The White House scolds Congress for being dilatory in finding cash for Panama and Nicaragua.
EKISTICSn. the study of human settlements
In ekistics, the terms polis, metropolis, and megalopolis denote settlement populations of 75 thousand, 4 million, and 150 million, respectively.
To anybody familiar with the rudiments of ekistics the horrendous traffic jams were foreseeable.
EXTEMPOREadj. & adv. with little or no preparation or forethought
This is usually performed extempore, following the whims of the singer, musician and/or dancer.
FECUNDITYn. fertility or productiveness
His work has been translated into over twenty languages and is a prime example of the brilliance and fecundity brought to the English novel by writers who have landed on these shores.
LUMPENadj. relating to a dispossessed social class; a member of the crude and uneducated lowest class of society; mentally sluggish; misshapen and ponderous
Both families had been transformed from what might be called a lumpen peasantry into what Marx did call the lumpen proletariat.
The nose was large and lumpen; the hair was stringy and unkempt.
MENDACIOUSadj. dishonest; given to lying
The loss of confidence which set in after Stalingrad was not least a consequence of the totally misleading and outrightly mendacious German propaganda which had preceded the catastrophe.
MEPHISTOPHELIANadj. characteristic of a devil; wicked
His Mephistophelian eyes unsettled his teachers.
NUGATORYadj. having little or no value or importance
Social custom made this proviso almost nugatory.
OPSIMATHn. person who begins to learn or study only late in life.
It was strange, yet refreshing, to see the opsimath working diligently in his study group with piers 50 years his junior.
ORNERYadj. bad-tempered, irritable, or very difficult and contrary.
Few took any notice of his complaints for he was well known around the village as the ornery old military man.
OTIOSEadj. superfluous or redundant (of a word or phrase); indolent; futile or functionless
The linking commentary is often otiose and always plonking.
Therefore, although there is a substantial overlap between section 1 and section 15, section 15 is not otiose.
PECCADILLOn. a petty misdeed, sin, offense, or foible
Equally if one lived in a society where everybody was constantly protesting against the smallest governmental peccadillo life would become intolerable.
PELLUCIDadj. transparent or clear (physically and metaphorically)
At the end of the garden, the waters of the stream that had risen pellucid at their source lay curdled.
Galbraith, as always, writes in pellucid prose.
PERCIPIENTadj. discerning and quick in perceiving
The ever percipient @jendziura is always worth a read.
PHYLOGENYn. the history or evolutionary development of something (especially a species)
The evolution of fins may also be traced across this phylogeny.
PROLIXITYn. boring, drawn out verbosity
Di Leonardo's personal secretary had issued a statement shortly after midday, a masterpiece of prolixity that took about five minutes to say that Ruggiero Miletti had been found dead and that another statement would be issued in due course.
RUBRICn. an established rule, tradition, or custom
There are of course significant political differences between the USA and Italy, even though both come under the rubric of industrial capitalism.
SARDONICadj. humorously mocking, scornful, or cynical
‘Separate rooms don't mean a thing,’ he retorted with a glimmer of a sardonic smile.
...a sardonic dismissal of the philologists of our time for their joy at capturing worms and their indifference to the true problems, the urgent problems of life.
SCHADENFREUDEn. delight taken in another's misfortune
This led to divorce from his wife, who could perhaps be permitted some Schadenfreude at the fact that Van Den Hauwe's relationship had, perforce, become platonic.
SEDENTARYadj. spending much time sitting and taking little exercise
He was forced by illness to lead a sedentary life.
SYBARITEn. a person devoted to luxuries and sensual pleasures
He liked the good things of life but he was no sybarite.
TELEOLOGYn. explanation of phenomena in terms of a design or end purpose rather than in terms of their causes
The teleology of evolution as a goal-seeking activity persists in indefensible form a hundred years later in the writing of biologists.
TIMOROUSadj. having a timid or fearful disposition
He had been a quiet, timorous boy until he discovered the excitement of chasing women.
TRUCULENTadj. scathingly harsh; ferocious
He still took care to be rude and truculent at school to keep up appearances, but the old venom had faded.
UNCTUOUSadj. fatty, oily, or greasy; excessively flattering, suave, or ingratiating
It's wonderful — richer and more unctuous — in stuffings or to flavour sauces where you would normally use lemon or lime.
He seemed anxious to please, but not in an unctuous way.
UNGUENTn. an ointment used to soothe, heal, or lubricate
A delightful unguent jar from Mostagedda carved from ivory in the form of a hippopotamus argues that the animal attracted favourable attention.
VENIALadj. forgivable or pardonable
Half of the thousands of imprisoned debtors had been reduced to their state by venial errors or innocent misfortune.
VERDANTadj. green and lush with grass or other rich vegetation
Pompeii lay in verdant, wine-growing country and so gave special prominence to Venus, goddess of fecundity, Hercules and Bacchus.
VITRINEn. a glass cabinet for displaying and protecting delicate items or specimens
The preserved corpse was subsequently recased in the nineteenth century in a glass-fronted mahogany vitrine.
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