Verbal Advantage - Level 03 Word 31 - Word 40 MCQ Test
- Word 31: Rescind [ri-SIND]
To cancel, take back, take away, remove; also, to render void, annul, repeal.
Rescind comes from a Latin verb meaning to cut, and by derivation means to cut back or away; hence, to remove, cancel, take back something one has said or done. When you rescind an order, rescind a contract, or rescind a law, you cancel it, make it void. When you rescind a statement you take it back, remove it from the record.
- Word 32: Discernible [di-SURN-i-bul]
Recognizable, detectible, perceptible, capable of being recognized by the senses or by the mind.
Synonyms of discernible include apparent, evident, distinguishable, and manifest (MAN-i-fest). Antonyms of discernible include obscure, invisible, indistinct, and imperceptible.
Discernible and the related words discern, discernment, and discerning come from a Latin word meaning to sift, separate, distinguish between, and all of these words pertain to sifting or separating things in order to distinguish them.
The verb to discern means to recognize with the senses or the mind, especially to perceive something hidden or obscure: the philosopher’s goal is to discern the truth; the doctor’s job is to discern the cause of a disease; the numismatist—n(y)oo-MIZ-muhtist, an expert on coins—can discern the genuine from the counterfeit.
The noun discernment denotes the ability to make accurate distinctions or discriminate keenly and wisely. Discernment is what enables a good manager to hire the most capable, loyal employees. The psychologist and the detective both must show discernment in reading people’s character and assessing their motives. Challenging synonyms of discernment include astuteness, acumen (uh-KYOO-men), and perspicacity (PUR-spi-KAS-i-tee).
The adjective discerning means having or showing discernment, revealing knowledge or insight: a wine taster must have a discerning palate; the person with a discerning eye has an exceptional ability to make subtle judgments or distinctions.
The adjective discernible, our keyword, means distinguishable, perceptible, capable of being discerned: “The faint light of dawn was barely discernible on the horizon”; “Industry analysts concluded that there was no discernible difference between the company’s performance before and after the merger.”
- Word 33: Cataclysm [KAT-uh-KLIZ-’m]
A disaster, great mishap, catastrophe, violent upheaval.
A disaster, a catastrophe, a calamity, a debacle, and a cataclysm all refer to accidents, misfortunes, and sudden or violent changes. Let’s examine these words in order.
The negative prefix dis- denotes the absence or reverse of what follows: dislike is an absence of affection, discomfort is the absence of comfort, and disadvantage is the reverse of an advantage. In the word disaster, dis- combines with the Latin astrum, a star, to mean literally a reversal of the stars, an unfavorable horoscope; hence, an absence of luck, misfortune. Today disaster refers to a great misfortune involving ruinous loss of life or property. The sinking of the Titanic and the stock market crash of 1929 were disasters.
Catastrophe (kuh-TAS-truh-fee) combines the Greek kata-, down, with strophe, turn, to mean literally a down-turning. Originally catastrophe referred to the final turning point in a Greek tragedy where things go down the drain. Today catastrophe is used interchangeably with disaster, but properly disaster emphasizes the unforeseen, unlucky aspect of an event and catastrophe emphasizes its tragic and irreversible nature: The stock market crash of 1929 was a disaster for Wall Street, but it was only the beginning of the economic catastrophe we now call the Great Depression.
A calamity (kuh-LAM-i-tee) is an event that produces great distress, hardship, or misery, particularly on a personal level: The death of a loved one is always painful, but there is no greater calamity than the death of a child.
Debacle (di-BAH-kul) refers by derivation to a violent breaking up of ice in a river. It is often used today of any violent disruption or breakdown that leads to collapse or failure: “The breakup of the former Soviet Union was the debacle of communism”; “When Colosso Corporation laid off 20 percent of its workforce, company executives called it downsizing but employees called it a debacle.”
Our keyword, cataclysm, comes from a Greek verb meaning to wash away or dash over. In its original sense, still in good standing today, a cataclysm is a great flood, a deluge (DEL-yooj), specifically the biblical flood that inundated the earth for forty days and forty nights. (By the way, to inundate—pronounced INuhn-dayt or, less often, in-UHN-dayt—means to overflow or overwhelm.)
In current usage, cataclysm most often refers to a violent upheaval that causes great destruction and change. The adjective is cataclysmic (KAT-uh-KLIZ-mik). A cataclysmic event may be geological—such as a devastating earthquake, fire, or flood—or it may be social or political. Many would say that World War II was the greatest cataclysm in the tumultuous course of twentiethcentury history.
- Word 34: Narcissism [NAHR-si-SIZ-’m]
Self-love, excessive admiration of oneself.
Synonyms of narcissism include vanity, conceit, egotism, and amour-propre (ah-MOOR PRAWP-ruh or PRAWP-ur). Antonyms include humbleness, modesty, and humility.
Narcissism comes from Narcissus (nahr-SIS-us), a character in Greek mythology who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water. A narcissist is a person afflicted with narcissism, self-love, excessive admiration of one’s appearance, abilities, or achievements. Narcissistic is the adjective: “Amy was sick of dating narcissistic men whose only topic of conversation was me, me, me.”
- Word 35: Incriminate [in-KRIM-uh-nayt]
To charge with a crime, accuse of wrongdoing, implicate, present evidence or proof of involvement in a wrongful act.
You can see all but the last letter of the word criminal in the spelling of incriminate. When you incriminate someone, you accuse that person of doing something illegal or unethical. Incriminating evidence corroborates a person’s involvement in a wrongful act. An incriminating statement is a statement that makes one appear guilty of wrongdoing.
- Word 36: Stigma [STIG-muh]
A mark of shame or disgrace, a moral blemish, a stain on one’s character or reputation.
Stigma comes directly from Greek, and means literally a mark, brand, tattoo. In its original but no longer common sense, stigma refers to a brand or scar made with a red-hot iron in the flesh of slaves and criminals. Later it came to be used of anything that branded a person as unwholesome or disgraceful, a mark of shame, stain on one’s character or reputation: the stigma of divorce; the stigma of a bad credit rating. The corresponding verb is stigmatize (STIG-muh-tyz), to brand as shameful, set a mark of disgrace upon: The media rarely have an indifferent view of celebrities and politicians; they either praise them or stigmatize them.
The plural of stigma is either stigmas or stigmata (preferably STIG-muh-tuh; I’ll elaborate in a moment). Stigmas is the anglicized plural—to anglicize means to make English, conform to English modes of spelling, pronunciation, and usage. Stigmata, the Latinate plural, is also an interesting word by itself. Specifically, stigmata refers to marks resembling the wounds on the crucified body of Jesus Christ that are believed to have been supernaturally impressed on the bodies of certain persons, such as St. Francis of Assisi.
Now for a word of advice on pronunciation. For the plural stigmata, STIG-muh-tuh, with the stress on the first syllable, follows the Latin and Greek accentuation and is the traditional English pronunciation. The alternative pronunciation stig-MAHtuh, with the accent on the second syllable, has been around since the 1920s; it is now standard and listed first in some dictionaries. Despite its popularity, however, stig-MAH-tuh is a pseudoclassical pronunciation; in other words, those who say it that way probably think they are following the proper classical accentuation. Although stig-MAH-tuh is not wrong, it carries a slight stigma of affectation. There is no such stigma associated with the pronunciation STIG-muh-tuh, which I recommend as having a longer tradition and greater authority.
- Word 37: Brevity [BREV-i-tee]
Shortness, briefness, as the brevity of life, the brevity of a child’s attention span.
Brevity may also mean brief expression, shortness of speech, as “Forcefulness and brevity are the most important characteristics of a good speaker.” Synonyms of brevity in this sense include conciseness, succinctness (suhk-SINGKT-nis), terseness, and pithiness.
Brief and brevity both come from the Latin brevis, short, the source also of the unusual word breve (BREEV, rhymes with leave and grieve). A breve is one of the diacritical marks or symbols used to indicate pronunciation. It’s a small curve, like a tiny smile, placed over a vowel to indicate a short sound, as in the e in pet or the a in cat. You’ve probably seen the breve many times in your dictionary without realizing what it is. Well, now when you see it again you’ll know what it’s called, and you will also know that the breve is a symbol for brevity, shortness, briefness.
- Word 38: Perquisite [PUR-kwi-zit]
A benefit, incidental gain or reward; specifically, an expected or promised benefit, privilege, or advantage received in addition to one’s normal salary or wages.
You may not have heard the word perquisite before, but I’ll bet you’re familiar with the noun perk, as in the phrase “a job with good perks,” meaning a job with good benefits and privileges. Just as the word bennies has today become the popular, informal substitute for benefits, the word perk was created as a shorter, snappier, and informal synonym for perquisite. But unlike benny meaning benefit, which is recent slang and has yet to make it into a dictionary, perk dates back to the 1820s. Nevertheless, perk did not appear in an American dictionary until the 1960s, when Merriam-Webster’s Third New International recorded it along with the label “chiefly British.” Since then, however, perk has become fully standard in American usage, and because it has retained its informal flavor it is now more widely used than the original word, perquisite.
Perquisite comes from a Latin noun meaning acquisition, and ultimately from a Latin verb meaning to ask or search for diligently. In modern usage, perquisite refers to a benefit or privilege accompanying a position. The perquisites of a job are the nice things you expect or that have been promised in addition to your salary. An expense account, a company car, a commodious office, and a profit-sharing plan all are nice perquisites—if you can get them.
- Word 39: Indigent [IN-di-jint]
Poor, needy, penniless, impoverished, down-and-out.
Challenging synonyms of indigent include destitute and impecunious (IM-pe-KYOO-nee-us). The impecunious person has little or no money: “Many great writers have suffered through long periods of impecunious obscurity”; “He is a lazy, impecunious wretch posing as a gentleman.” The destitute person has no visible means of support: “Ralph’s addiction to booze and gambling eventually left his family destitute”; “the starving, destitute refugees of a war-torn nation.”
Indigent comes from the Latin indigentis, in need, wanting. The indigent person is down-and-out and in need of assistance or relief: “They built a new shelter for the homeless and the indigent”; “Some people resent paying taxes to support the indigent members of society.”
- Word 40: Clairvoyant [klair-VOY-int]
Having exceptional powers of perception, unusually clear-sighted or discerning; specifically, able to see objects or events that others cannot, having extrasensory perception or the power of divination.
Clairvoyant comes through French from the Latin clarus, clear, and videre, to see. By derivation clairvoyant means having the power to see clearly what others cannot. The corresponding noun clairvoyance means exceptional insight or perception, the ability to see things others can’t. Clairvoyant may also be used to mean a person who supposedly possesses the power to see into the future, a medium, soothsayer.
With the advent of modern science, clairvoyance has fallen into disrepute. Yet economists continually attempt to be clairvoyant (though they rarely are), and many ordinary people experience occasional clairvoyant moments full of startling, exceptional insight.