Amicable (adj) – Characterized by goodwill, Peaceable
Helpful Hints: While amicable and amiable both mean “friendly,” here is the difference: Amiable is used to described people, but amicable is used to describe relationships or situations.
Sample Sentence: Although the debaters were vicious in their attacks on each other’s positions, the event ended amicably.
Asylum (n) – 1. An institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or others requiring assistance 2. A refuge, Sanctuary
Synonym: 2. Haven
Helpful Hints: The connection between these two definitions is that an asylum for the mentally ill is meant to provide a sanctuary from a potentially harmful world.
Sample Sentence: In The Lord of the Flies, Simon seeks asylum in the woods, where none of the fighting can bother him.
Blasphemy (n) – The act of insulting or showing contempt for God
Synonyms: Sacrilege, Profanity
Helpful Hints: This word can also be used in a non-religious context, meaning that you are being disrespectful about anything that people cherish, but the most common context is religion.
Sample Sentence: When he saw the pages torn out of the hotel’s Bible, he was saddened by the act of blasphemy.
Contagious (adj) – Tending to spread from person to person
Helpful Hints: Contagious is not merely meant for medical uses – a good mood can be contagious.
Sample Sentence: Since their child was sick and highly contagious, the parents decided not to go to the birthday party.
Deleterious (adj) – Harmful
Synonyms: Injurious, Destructive
Antonyms: Helpful, Beneficial
Sample Sentence: Medical commercials must legally disclose the potentially deleterious side-effects of the pill they are promoting.
Discrepancy (n) – Difference; Inconsistency; An instance of difference or inconsistency
Helpful Hints: The key here is that a discrepancy is a difference between what ought to be and what actually is, like between the truth and a fabrication, or between how much money you think you have versus how much you actually have.
Sample Sentence: The police found a discrepancy in the suspect’s story, as he could not have possibly been in his office at such a late hour.
Ephemeral (adj) – Short-lived, Transitory
Synonyms: Fleeting, Brief
Antonyms: Permanent, Ever-present
Sample Sentence: The happiness brought about by the memory was ephemeral, and the man soon became depressed once again.
Exhilarating (adj) – Exciting, Stimulating, Invigorating
Antonyms: Dull, Numbing
Sample Sentence: Skydiving, zip-lines, and African safaris are all exhilarating experiences.
Founder (v) – 1. To fill with water and sink 2. To fail utterly
Synonyms: 2. To flop, To Bomb
Helpful Hints: A boat that has capsized has turned upside-down. A boat that has foundered is at the bottom of the sea.
Sample Sentence: The empire eventually foundered, as they were unable to support its own massive size.
Hypothetical (adj) – Not proven, Based on guesswork, Supposed
Synonyms: Theoretical, Speculative
Antonyms: Certain, Definite
Helpful Hints: Do not confuse a hypothetical question with a rhetorical question. A hypothetical question is one that asks something based on a possible situation, like “What would you do if you had four arms?” A rhetorical question is one that does not require an answer, like, “Is that the best you can do?”
Sample Sentence: Before purchasing the house, the couple thought of hypothetical situations that might cause them to default on their mortgage.
Insipid (adj) – Without distinctive or interesting qualities, Flavorless, Bland
Sample Sentence: The restaurant received a poor critique which stated that both the food and the decor were insipid and left the customer with no real aftertaste.
Lithe (adj) – Flexible, Pliant
Sample Sentence: In the Olympic Park, the weightlifter felt clumsy and awkward when he stood next to the lithe gymnast.
Mitigate (v) – To make less severe, To moderate
Synonyms: Diminish, Lessen
Antonyms: Worsen, Aggravate
Sample Sentence: The sandbags did little to mitigate the flood water, which still poured into the basement.
Oust (v) – To expel or remove from a place or position
Synonyms: Banish, Evict
Sample Sentence: Because of the two different scandals that Mr. Paulson could not explain, he was ousted from his position as town selectman.
Preeminence (n) – The state of being superior or surpassing
Sample Sentence: The baron was tongue-tied, as he had never been face to face with the king before, and did not know how to behave in front of a man of such preeminence.
Reciprocate (v) – To return in kind or degree
Synonyms: To pay back
Sample Sentence: When given a thank you card, people sometimes feel obligated to reciprocate and write a thank you card back, to acknowledge the nice gesture.
Secluded (adj) – 1. Sheltered or screened from general activity or view 2. Withdrawn from or involving little human or social activity
Synonyms: 2. Cloistered, Antisocial
Antonyms: 1. Overt 2. Sociable
Sample Sentence: While her spouse wished for a more vibrant neighborhood, she really cherished how secluded their home was, with its long dirt road leading up to it and the thick forest on all sides.
Static (adj/n) – adj. – Showing little to no change n. – Atmospheric electricity or the interference due to such electricity
Synonyms: adj – Inactive, Stagnant
Antonyms: adj – Dynamic, Evolving
Helpful Hints: In film or television, a static shot is one where the camera angle does not change for a long time.
Sample Sentence: (adj) Literary characters can be divided into dynamic characters, who show great change, and static characters, who basically stay the same throughout the book. (n) It was hard to hear the broadcast of the speech through the thick static on the radio.
Vacillate (v) – To waver in mind or opinion
Synonyms: Fluctuate, Hesitate
Sample Sentence: The boss vacillated for days between the three highly qualified candidates before finally making her decision.
Vulnerable (adj) – Open to attack, criticism or temptation, Susceptible
Sample Sentence: The boxer’s wild and untrained punches left him vulnerable to the skillful and precise attacks of his opponent.