Verbal Advantage - Level 02 Word 21 - Word 30 MCQ Test
- Word 21: Haggard [HAG-urd]
Worn out, tired, gaunt (GAWNT), drawn, emaciated (i-MAY-sheeAY-tid). A person who is haggard has a wild-eyed and wasted look, as from exhaustion, illness, or grief.
Haggard is another word whose meaning I remember through the power of association. When I read King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard, I imagined the author as being as worn out and wild-eyed as his characters were by the end of their harrowing adventure. But you don’t need to go through a death-defying experience to look or feel haggard. Long hours at work, lack of sleep, or inadequate nutrition can easily make you haggard, worn out, tired, wasted, gaunt.
- Word 22: Waive [WAYV, like wave]
To relinquish voluntarily, give up, forgo.
To relinquish implies giving up something one doesn’t want to part with, either out of necessity or because one has been compelled or forced: to relinquish possession, to relinquish command. To waive implies a voluntary refusal to insist on one’s right or claim to something: to waive one’s right to a trial by jury; to waive one’s claim on a title or property.
Waive may also mean to postpone, defer, or dispense with, as to waive discussion, or to waive formalities and get on with business.
- Word 23: Carnal [KAHR-nal]
Bodily, pertaining to the flesh as opposed to the spirit, sensual, corporeal.
Carnal is not used to mean bodily in a general or neutral sense; we do not say carnal functions or carnal aches and pains. Carnal refers to the basic physical appetites of the body, especially the sexual appetite. We speak of carnal desires, carnal lust, carnal knowledge.
- Word 24: Sanction [SANGK-shun]
To approve, allow, permit, authorize, certify, ratify.
To sanction, certify, and ratify all mean to approve. Ratify means to officially approve something done by a representative: to ratify a treaty. Certify means to officially approve compliance with requirements or standards: a certified public accountant. Sanction means to give authoritative approval: the company’s board of directors sanctioned the merger; many religions do not sanction unmarried sexual relations; the law sanctions free speech but not antisocial behavior.
- Word 25: Ambiguous [am-BIG-yoo-us]
Uncertain, unclear, doubtful, dubious, questionable, puzzling, having an obscure or indefinite meaning.
By derivation, ambiguous means having two or more possible meanings, capable of being understood in more than one way. An ambiguous intention is uncertain, difficult to determine, and therefore questionable, dubious. An ambiguous statement is puzzling because it can be interpreted in more than one way; it is unclear and indefinite.
More difficult synonyms of ambiguous include enigmatic (EN-ig-MAT-ik), cryptic (KRIP-tik), and equivocal (i-KWIV-uh-kul). Antonyms of ambiguous include distinct, apparent, evident, conspicuous, and manifest.
- Word 26: Spendthrift [rhymes with bend lift]
Wasteful, spending extravagantly or foolishly, squandering one’s resources: “His spendthrift habits will put the company out of business.”
You may use spendthrift either as an adjective meaning wasteful, spending extravagantly, or as a noun to mean a wasteful person, someone who foolishly squanders money or resources: “There isn’t a thrifty bone in his body. He’s a gambler and a spendthrift to the core.”
The words improvident, prodigal, profligate, and spendthrift all mean wasteful, spending thoughtlessly or squandering one’s resources.
Improvident (im-PRAHV-i-dent) means literally not provident, not providing for the future; the improvident person does not save money for retirement or for a rainy day.
Prodigal (PRAH-di-gal) is a close synonym of spendthrift and means spending money in a reckless or extravagant way, usually to support a lavish or luxurious lifestyle. In the Bible, the famous parable about the prodigal son tells of a young man who wasted his inheritance but was forgiven by his father.
Profligate (PRAHF-li-git) means extremely prodigal or spendthrift; it refers specifically to a person who spends money with reckless abandon and lives a life shamelessly devoted to pleasure: a profligate Hollywood movie star who squandered his fortune in exclusive nightclubs and casinos.
Spendthrift means wasteful, spending extravagantly: “The taxpayers want a more efficient and less spendthrift government.”
- Word 27: Mollify [MAHL-uh-fy]
To calm, soothe, pacify, appease, soften in feeling or tone, make less harsh or severe: “Nothing mollified his anger.”
Mollify comes from the Latin mollis, soft, and facere, to make, and means literally “to make soft.” Also from the Latin mollis, soft, comes the word emollient (i-MAHL-yint). As an adjective, emollient means softening, soothing, mollifying; as a noun it means a softening or soothing agent, such as a lotion or cream for the skin.
The verb to mollify once meant literally to make soft or tender, as to mollify meat, tenderize it. That sense is now obsolete and mollify today is used to mean to soften in feeling or tone, calm, soothe, make less harsh or severe: “The union leaders decided to mollify their demands”; “A good manager should be adept at mollifying conflicts that can damage morale”; “The plaintiff’s attorney said that only a million-dollar settlement would mollify her client”; “He was furious, and nothing she said mollified him.”
- Word 28: Unequivocal [UHN-i-KWIV-uh-kul]
Clear and direct, definite, straightforward, certain, having a single, obvious meaning, capable of being interpreted in only one way.
Unequivocal, clear and direct, and ambiguous, uncertain, unclear, are antonyms.
Unequivocal combines the common prefix un-, which means not, with the word equivocal, a synonym of ambiguous. Equivocal language can be interpreted in several ways; it is deliberately vague, evasive, or ambiguous. Unequivocal language is clear, straightforward, and direct: “Reporters are so accustomed to equivocal answers from government officials that they are often surprised and suspicious when they get an unequivocal response.”
Now that you know the meaning of unequivocal I’d like to caution you about how you pronounce it. I have heard many educated speakers add a syllable to the word and say “unequivocable,” and I have even seen the word misspelled that way in books and magazines. No matter whom you hear saying “unequivocable,” it’s incorrect—a beastly mispronunciation. Unequivocal ends with -vocal, not -vocable, and has five syllables: un-e-quiv-o-cal.
- Word 29: Malleable [MAL-ee-uh-bul]
Capable of being shaped, able to be molded or manipulated, adaptable, impressionable.
Certain metals, such as gold and iron, are malleable; they can be molded or shaped. In a figurative sense, malleable can also apply to a person or abstract thing that can be molded or shaped. For example, a young person’s mind may be malleable, impressionable, capable of being shaped, or an idea may be malleable, adaptable, capable of being shaped to fit various purposes.
Malleable and the challenging word tractable (TRAK-tuh-bul) are close in meaning. Malleable comes from the Latin malleare, to hammer, and means literally “capable of being hammered into a desired shape.” Tractable comes from the Latin tractare, to handle, manage, haul or drag along. From the same source comes the familiar word tractor, the farm vehicle used to pull wagons, mowers, and other agricultural equipment. By derivation that which is tractable can be pulled or hauled; hence, a tractable person is manageable, easily handled. A malleable person or thing is easily hammered into shape, and therefore is adaptable, impressionable.
Antonyms of malleable and tractable include inflexible, unyielding, stubborn, obstinate (AHB-sti-nit), and intransigent (in-TRAN-zi-jint).
- Word 30: Verbose [vur-BOHS]
Wordy, having too many words, long-winded, full of verbiage (VUR-bee-ij).
More difficult synonyms of verbose include garrulous (GAR-uh-lus), loquacious (loh-KWAY-shus), voluble (VAHL-yuh-bul), and prolix (PROH-liks).
Verbose refers to speech or writing that uses more words than necessary to get the point across. The corresponding noun is verbosity, wordiness, long-windedness, an overabundance of words.
Whenever you see verb- at the beginning of a word, you can safely assume that the meaning of the whole word has something to do with words. That’s because most English words containing verb- come from the Latin verbum, word. From this verbum come the English words verbal, pertaining to or expressed in words; verbatim, expressed in precisely the same words; verbiage, an excess or overabundance of words; and verbose, wordy, longwinded, using more words than necessary to get the point across.
Since I’m already waxing verbose about words from the Latin verbum, word, allow me to digress even further and proffer a few words of advice on the words verbal and verbiage. (Are you familiar with the verb to proffer, pronounced PRAHF-ur? It means to put forward for acceptance, present as a gift, as to proffer one’s services, or to proffer friendship.)
But back to the word verbiage (VUR-bee-ij), which is often mispronounced VUR-bij, as if it had only two syllables. Carriage and marriage have two syllables, but verbiage and foliage (FOH-leeij) have three. Try not to say VUR-bij and FOH-lij, or even worse, FOY-lij. You will hear many educated people mispronounce these words, but believe me when I say that careful speakers consider the two-syllable variants beastly mispronunciations. Take care to pronounce these words in three syllables: VUR-bee-ij and FOH-leeij.
Now for a word to the wise on the proper use of verbal. You will often hear or read such phrases as “a verbal agreement” or “a verbal understanding.” Have you ever stopped to ask yourself exactly what they mean? If you’re like most people, you probably figured that a verbal agreement or a verbal understanding meant one that was arrived at through conversation, one that was spoken but not written down—and therein lies the problem.
The word oral means spoken, not written, and the precise meaning of verbal is expressed in words, either orally or in writing. Too often verbal, expressed in words, is used to mean oral, spoken, and the message that results from that confusion is usually ambiguous. For example, listen to this sentence, which I found recently in the business section of my local newspaper: “Ensure all promises made verbally are included, in writing, in the contract.” As written, the sentence means that we should make sure that all promises, both spoken and written, are included in the contract. The writer wants to say that we should put all spoken promises in writing, but to convey that meaning precisely the sentence should read like this: “Ensure all promises made orally are included in the contract.”
In the future, whenever you refer to promises, agreements, or understandings, remember that if they are expressed in speech, they are oral, and if they are expressed in words, whether spoken or written, they are verbal. Of course, if they are expressed in too many words, like most long-winded legal contracts, then they are verbose, full of verbiage.