Antebellum (adj) – existing before a war
Helpful Hints: Although this is a general term that can apply to any war, the adjective is almost exclusively used to describe the era before the American Civil War (1840-1860) – hence, “antebellum architecture” might seem vague – which war? – but is in fact from the mid 19th century. The synonym and antonym listed are much vaguer than the typical use of “antebellum.” Finally, you may be familiar with the band Lady Antebellum — they adopted their name after photographing pre-Civil War plantation homes in the American South.
Sample Sentence: Cahawba was the capital of antebellum Alabama, but by the time the Civil War began, the capital had moved, and the city was nearly a ghost town.
Belligerent (adj) – warlike or aggressively hostile
Synonyms: antagonistic, contentious
Antonyms: agreeable, friendly, peaceful
Sample Sentence: When Toronto lost the Stanley Cup, their fans became belligerent and began setting fire to parked cars.
Bibliography (n) – A list of works used in the creation of a new text
Helpful Hints: For your own papers, there is a distinction between a “bibliography” and a “works cited” — a bibliography includes all of the works that you consulted when writing your paper, whereas a works cited page only includes those works that were actually cited or referenced in your paper. Another term that can be used in place of “works cited” is “references.”
You May Remember: GRAPH from unit 6 means “write” – so a bibliography is a “writing of books” or a list of books
Sample Sentence: Although the teacher wasn’t entirely sure about the strength of the essay’s thesis, she could see from the lengthy bibliography that the student had put a lot of time into his research.
Bibliophile (n) – A lover of books
Synonyms: bookworm (slang)
You May Remember: In our previous unit, we had the PHIL root, meaning “love” – a bibliophile literally is a “book-lover”
Sample Sentence: English teachers are bibliophiles, and most of us would never go on a vacation without a book tucked away somewhere.
PEL / PULS Push
Compel (v) – To force, especially into a course of action
Synonyms: coerce, impel, press
Antonyms: allow, permit
Helpful Hints: A compelling argument is one that urges you to change your mind. Note that the synonym “impel” also uses the same root, and that the synonym “press” can also be a synonym for “push.”
You May Remember: COM from unit 5 is a prefix meaning “with or together” – to compel is to “push with” – like you are pushing someone to go along with your plan or thought
Sample Sentence: The Boston Marathon bombings compelled a lot of people to train for the following year’s marathon in a show of support for the victims.
Impulsive (adj) – Swayed by emotion, or involuntary action
Synonyms: capricious, extemporaneous, impetuous
Antonyms: deliberate, premeditated, thoughtful
Helpful Hints: “Impulsive” usually connotes an internal process, while the related word “compulsive” usually denotes an external process. So an impulsive gambler is someone who buys a plane ticket to Las Vegas on a whim, whereas a compulsive gambler suffers an addiction to gambling, so the compulsion is out of his or her control.
You May Remember: The IM- prefix from unit 5 means “into” – so an impulsive decision is one that hurriedly pushes you into something
Sample Sentence: As he drove his new car home without even test-driving it at the dealership, he worried that he may have made an impulsive purchase.
Democratic (adj) – Pertaining to the principle of political equality for all
Synonyms: egalitarian, representative, self-governing
Antonyms: despotic, monarchic, tyrannical
Sample Sentence: The country overthrew its king and replaced the government with a new, democratic system of ruling.
Demographics (n) – Statistical data of a population
Helpful Hints: You often hear this word used in regards to television programming – a show, or a commercial might have a specific demographic, or sub-group in mind like, for instance, wealthy middle-aged women
You May Remember: Here, again, we see GRAPH – to write – so demographics are the written facts about a group of people
Sample Sentence: As Bianca noticed the commercials for her favorite shows were all for children’s products, she began to wonder if she had outgrown the show’s desired demographics.
SPEC / SPIC To See
Inconspicuous (adj) – Not noticeable, Blending in
Synonyms: discreet, low-profile, unobtrusive,
Antonyms: conspicuous, distinct, noticeable
You May Remember: Since IN- (from unit 2) means “not” and CON (unit 5) means “with,” something inconspicuous is something “not seen with” – or more simply, not noticed
Sample Sentence: The spy was entirely inconspicuous in the public plaza, and nobody even looked twice at him.
Specter (n) – 1.) A terrifying ghost or phantom 2.) a looming threat
Synonyms: 1.) apparition, wraith, phantasm 2.) menace, peril, danger
Antonyms: 1.) being, entity
Helpful Hints: You might encounter the alternate spelling “spectre” which is now scarce in the US, but preferred in the UK
Sample Sentence: During the middle of the 20th century, America trembled under the specter of Communism.
POLY- Many, Several
Polygamy (n) – The practice of having more than one spouse at a time
Related words: monogamy (having one spouse), nuptial (relating to weddings), conjugal (relating to marriage), connubial (more formal – relating to marriage)
Sample Sentence: Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven examines the roots of fundamental Mormonism, which still believes in polygamy.
Polyglot (n) – A person who can speak many languages
Helpful Hints: The word “polyglot” can also be used as an adjective to indicate the ability to speak several languages as in a polyglot translator or a polyglot community.
Sample Sentence: It was helpful having Jean-Phillipe on the European vacation, as he was a polyglot and could easily converse in French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
RE- (2) Back
Recede (v) – To retreat or withdraw
Synonyms: diminish, wane, abate
Antonyms: advance, approach
Helpful Hints: Some of the most common contexts — receding hairlines, receding tides, receding gums — indicate a very slow retreat.
You May Remember: In unit 10, we covered the root CEDE which means “to yield or go” – when something recedes, it literally “goes back”
Sample Sentence: Years of poor dental hygiene caused Sally’s gums to recede noticeably.
Retract (v) – To withdraw a promise or a statement
Related words: disclaimer, disavowal, rebuttal, recantation, repudiation
Helpful Hints: Newspapers have to issue a retraction when they get the facts wrong – that’s a notice in a later edition that “removes” the mistake from the original article
Sample Sentence: After wrongfully accusing the candidate of being a racist, the newspaper editor had to officially retract his previous week’s editorial.
TEN / TENT Hold
Tenable (adj) – Capable of being defended, as against an attack or a dispute
Synonyms: justifiable, supportable, sustainable
Antonyms: indefensible, unreasonable
You May Remember: This may seem obvious, but the ABLE suffix comes from unit 8 and means “able to” – something tenable is something you are able to hold onto or maintain
Sample Sentence: As the horizon filled with more and more enemy soldiers, the captain knew that maintaining their position within the fortress was not tenable, and he ordered a retreat to safer territory.
Tentative (adj) – Experimental, unsure, impermanent
Synonyms: provisional, speculative, unconfirmed
Antonyms: certain, decisive, definite
Helpful Hints: For “tentative” — the idea is that something is held, but impermanently, or briefly.
Sample Sentence: Although tying a bungee cord to keep your car’s trunk closed is a good tentative solution, you really ought to get the trunk properly fixed.