Acumen (n) – Sharpness of mind; Shrewdness
Synonyms: Insight, Know-how
Helpful Hints: This word can be pronounced with the stress on the second syllable (a-KYOO-min) or the first (ACK-yoo-min)
Sample Sentence: Your writing should display your knowledge, understanding, and literary acumen.
Arcane (adj) – Obscure; Known only to few people
Sample Sentence: As we become more and more technologically driven, older manual skills such as weaving and glovemaking, become more and more arcane.
Bypass (v) – To avoid an obstruction
Synonyms: Circumvent, Skirt
Antonym: To go through
Helpful Hints: A coronary bypass surgery is one that redirects blood to go around a diseased or troubled area.
Sample Sentence: In order to access someone else’s computer files you will need to bypass their security measures.
Condone (v) – To excuse by seeming to overlook
Synonyms: Allow, Approve
Antonyms: Forbid, Disallow
Helpful Hints: The difference between allowing something and condoning something is that to condone an action indicates that the action shouldn’t be allowed, but an exception is being made, like asking for a cookie before dinner.
Sample Sentence: Burlington High School does not condone any form of plagiarism within student work.
Debacle (n) – A complete collapse or failure
Synonyms: Fiasco, Calamity
Sample Sentence: Owning wild animals as pets often becomes a debacle as they are not meant to be tamed.
Diligent (adj) – Persistent and hard-working
Synonyms: Sedulous, Industrious
Antonyms: Lazy, Half-hearted
Sample Sentence: Diligent students often receive higher grades because they are thorough enough to avoid silly mistakes.
Elusive (adj) Hard to grasp or mentally hold on to; Skillful at avoiding capture
Helpful Hints: While elusive and evasive (from our last unit) are nearly synonymous, here’s the difference: Being evasive is done intentionally, and often has to do with discovering the truth. a person being chased can be evasive by ducking into alleys, etc. You give an evasive answer when you want to hide the truth. Being elusive is not done with intent. If you cannot remember a person’s name, the name is elusive, not evasive, which would suggest that the name is actually hiding from you. When elusive is used to describe a person, it means our second definition – the person has the quality of being difficult to catch.
Sample Sentence: Elusive criminals often become famous for their ability to repeatedly avoid capture, rather than they crimes they committed.
Fathom (v) – To comprehend; To understand
Sample Sentence: It is difficult for American children to fathom what life would be like without the comforts of electricity, heat or food.
Flotsam (n) – Useless items
Synonyms: Detritus, Trinkets
Helpful Hints: You might hear this word used in the phrase “flotsam and jetsam,” which is a naval term. Flotsam was stuff that a ship would find floating on the water, like the wreckage of another ship, and jetsam was stuff that would get thrown overboard when the ship needed to be lighter.
Sample Sentence: After the best items at the estate’s auction were sold, most of the bidders left, and only a few remained to bid on the family’s flotsam.
Heretic (n) – One whose beliefs differ from accepted view
Synonyms: Dissenter, Outlier
Antonyms: Conformist, Believer
Helpful Hints: This word usually carries a religious connotation, meaning “one who does not believe in a certain religion”
Sample Sentence: Liberals are often willing to question every part of faith at the risk of being called a heretic.
Indomitable (adj) – Unconquerable; Cannot be overcome
Synonyms: Invincible, Unbeatable
Antonyms: Yielding, Vulnerable
Helpful Hints: Look inside the word and you will see the same root as dominate – someone indomitable cannot be dominated.
Sample Sentence: During the reign of Caesar the Roman Empire seemed to be an indomitable force, stretching around the globe.
Longevity (n) – Length or duration of life or service
Sample Sentence: The longevity of the TV show was due to the large demographic of its viewers, and it stayed on the air for over a decade.
Motley (adj) – Great in diversity of elements
Synonyms: Assorted, Mixed
Antonyms: Homogenous, Similar
Helpful Hints: You commonly hear this word used in the phrase “a motley crew,” meaning a random and strange collection of people.
Sample Sentence: Animal shelters are filled with motley breeds of dogs since they do not select which animals they save.
Overhaul (v) – To repair or renovate to serviceable condition
Sample Sentence: When people purchase old houses they often need to overhaul the home to meet new safety requirements.
Plausible (adj) – Credible; Believable
Sample Sentence: If you’re going to give your teacher an excuse it better be plausible or you will quickly be caught in your lie.
Reconcile (v) – 1. To bring to agreement; To settle a dispute 2. To accept something undesirable
Synonyms: 1. Pacify, Placate
Helpful Hints: When people get divorced, you sometimes hear them blame “irreconcilable differences” – that is, differences that cannot be settled. For the second definition, you might describe someone becoming reconciled to the fate of being forever alone.
Sample Sentence: It usually doesn’t take best friends long to reconcile after a disagreement.
Scrutinize (v) – To examine in great detail
Synonyms: Investigate, Peruse
Sample Sentence: Prosecutors need to scrutinize the evidence to make sure they have a case worthy of a court trial.
Stifle (v) – To suppress with force
Sample Sentence: There are certain environments, such as weddings and funerals, where it is best to stifle laughter.
Timorous (adj) – Fearful or timid
Antonyms: Brave, Intrepid
Sample Sentence: You should stick up for timorous classmates if you see them being bullied.
Whimsical (adj) – Changeable; Capricious
Antonym: Pragmatic, Steady
Sample Sentence: Johnny Depp has made a career out of playing whimsical characters in movies.