Verbal Advantage - Level 04 Word 31 - Word 40 MCQ Test
- Word 31: Acquiesce [AK-wee-ES]
To agree without protest, accept without argument or resistance, give in quietly.
Synonyms of acquiesce include consent, comply, submit, assent, and accede (ak-SEED). The corresponding noun is acquiescence (AK-wee-ES-ints). Acquiescence means the act of acquiescing, passive agreement, quiet acceptance.
Assent, accede, and acquiesce all mean to agree in slightly different ways. Assent implies agreement reached after careful consideration or deliberation: “The president of the company predicted that the stockholders would assent to the proposed merger.” Accede implies agreement in which one person or party gives in to persuasion or yields under pressure: “Management is not likely to accede to the union’s demands.” Acquiesce implies agreement offered in spite of tacit reservations. The person who acquiesces often is unwilling to agree but lacks the will or energy to resist: “Despite her doubts about the plan, Lucy acquiesced”; “Bob wasn’t happy with the salary that Mercenary Media had offered him, but he knew he would have to either acquiesce or take an even lower-paying job.”
Acquiesce is sometimes followed by the preposition in: “One member of the jury remained obstinate and would not acquiesce in the verdict”; “The chief executive officer acquiesced in the board of directors’ decision.”
- Word 32: Pontificate [pahn-TIF-i-kayt]
To speak in a pompous and overbearing way, make pretentious or categorical statements, express one’s opinion as though it were an official, authoritative decree.
The Roman Catholic pope is also known by two other names: the Bishop of Rome and the pontiff (PAHN-tif). Pontiff comes from the Latin Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Rome. As the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the pontiff is responsible for interpreting religious doctrine, or dogma, and issuing official decrees, called papal bulls. To these official decrees the pontiff affixes a seal called a bulla (BUUL-uh).
In its original sense, to pontificate means to be a pontiff, to fulfill the office of a pope and issue official decrees on church doctrine or dogma. From this the word came to apply in a disparaging way to anyone who speaks as if he were the pope issuing an official decree.
Because only the pontiff has the absolute right to pontificate, pontificate now means to express opinions or make judgments in a categorical, dogmatic way. I’ll save you the trouble of looking up dogmatic, which is pronounced dawg-MAT-ik (or dahg-). It means opinionated, dictatorial, expressing an opinion as if it were fact.
If your boss pontificates in a meeting, that means he or she is speaking dogmatically, in a pompous, pretentious, dictatorial manner. The person who pontificates expresses an opinion as though it were an official, authoritative decree: “Teenagers don’t respond well when their parents or teachers pontificate.”
The corresponding noun is pontification (pahn-TIF-i-KAY-shin).
- Word 33: Deleterious [DEL-i-TEER-ee-us]
Harmful, destructive, injurious, detrimental; especially, harmful to health or well-being.
Synonyms of deleterious include ruinous, noxious, pernicious (purNISH-us, word 10 of Level 7), and malignant (muh-LIG-nint). Antonyms include healthful, advantageous, wholesome, and salutary (SAL-yuh-TER-ee).
Deleterious comes from a Greek word meaning destructive and may be applied to something that has a detrimental effect upon a person’s health or well-being or to anything harmful or destructive. Smoking is deleterious, harmful to health. A divorce may be deleterious to children, injurious to their psychological well-being. An impetuous statement may have deleterious consequences. For example, you may daydream about stomping into your boss’s office and giving the old pontificating windbag a piece of your verbally advantaged mind, but doing that probably would be deleterious to your career.
- Word 34: Ambivalent [am-BIV-uh-lint]
Uncertain, indecisive, having conflicting feelings or desires, simultaneously drawn in opposite directions, attracted to and repulsed by something at the same time.
The corresponding noun is ambivalence, a state of uncertainty or indecisiveness.
One meaning of the combining form ambi- is “both,” as in the words ambidextrous (AM-bi-DEK-strus), skilled with both hands, and ambivert (AM-bi-vurt), a person who is both introverted, innerdirected, and extroverted, outer-directed. Ambivalent combines ambi-, both, with the Latin valere, to be strong. When you are ambivalent on an issue, you have strong feelings both ways; you are simultaneously drawn in opposite directions. The ambivalent person has conflicting feelings or desires, and therefore is uncertain, indecisive.
- Word 35: Pensive [PEN-siv]
Thoughtful, absorbed in thought, especially in a deep, dreamy, or melancholy way.
Synonyms of pensive include reflective, meditative, wistful, and contemplative (kun-TEM-pluh-tiv).
Pensive comes through an Old French verb meaning to think from the Latin pensare, to ponder, consider, weigh in the mind. When you are pensive, you are thinking deeply about something, pondering it, weighing it in your mind.
Pensive, contemplative, and wistful all mean thoughtful, but in different ways.
Wistful, which is related to the word wishful, suggests thoughtfulness marked by a strong and often sad longing or desire. When two lovers are apart, they are often wistful.
Contemplative (stress the second syllable), the adjective corresponding to the noun contemplation, suggests profound reflection usually directed toward achieving deeper understanding or enlightenment. Philosophers and prophets are contemplative.
Pensive suggests a deep, dreamy, and often melancholy thoughtfulness. A pensive mood is characterized by dreamy seriousness. When you grow pensive you become lost in thought, and probably have a slightly sad, faraway look in your eyes.
The corresponding noun is pensiveness: “The most salient characteristic in the poetic temperament is pensiveness.”
- Word 36: Impromptu [im-PRAHMP-t(y)oo]
Made up or done on the spur of the moment, uttered or performed without preparation, improvised for the occasion.
Synonyms of impromptu include offhand, spontaneous, and extemporaneous (ek-STEM-puh-RAY-nee-us).
Impromptu comes from a Latin phrase meaning in readiness, at hand. By derivation, something impromptu lies close at hand, ready to use when the occasion arises. In modern usage impromptu may apply to either spontaneous expression or activity: an impromptu response is an offhand or off-the-cuff response; an impromptu performance is improvised for the occasion; an impromptu party is thrown on the spur of the moment.
Here’s an image you can associate with the word impromptu that may help you remember what it means: Imagine yourself at a dinner party or wedding reception, chatting amiably with the people around you, when suddenly everyone in the room turns toward you and starts chanting “Speech, speech!” Although you are unprepared, you rise to the occasion and deliver a few urbane remarks. When your audience laughs at the right moment and applauds at the end, you are delighted. Your speech not only was impromptu, it was a triumph.
- Word 37: Conjecture [kun-JEK-chur]
To guess; especially, to make an educated guess; to form an opinion or make a judgment based on insufficient evidence.
Familiar synonyms of conjecture include to suppose, imagine, suspect, and presume.
To guess, to speculate, to surmise, and to conjecture all mean to form an opinion or reach a conclusion based upon uncertain or insufficient evidence.
To guess is the least reliable and most random of these words. When you guess you have a roughly equal chance of being right or wrong, and there is ample room for doubt about your opinion.
To speculate means to make a judgment based on observation and reasoning. When you speculate you form a reasonable opinion by evaluating whatever facts are at hand, however dubious they may be.
To surmise means to come to a conclusion by using one’s intuition or imagination. When you surmise, you use your instinct and power of insight to make a judgment based on slender evidence.
Our keyword, conjecture, comes from the Latin con-, together, and jacere, to throw, and by derivation means to throw something together. In modern usage to conjecture means to take whatever evidence is available and quickly construct an opinion based on one’s knowledge and experience—in short, to make an educated guess.
The corresponding noun a conjecture means an educated guess, an assumption or conclusion based on insufficient evidence.
- Word 38: Surreptitious [SUR-up-TISH-us]
Stealthy; characterized by secrecy and caution; done, made, obtained, or enjoyed in a secret and often sly or shifty manner, so as to avoid notice.
Synonyms of surreptitious include crafty, furtive (FUR-tiv), covert (traditionally and properly KUH-vurt, but now usually KOH-vurt), underhand, and clandestine (klan-DES-tin, word 6 of Level 2). Antonyms include evident, unconcealed, overt, aboveboard, and manifest.
Stealthy, furtive, clandestine, covert, and surreptitious all mean secret, hidden from the knowledge or view of others. Let’s examine their connotations in order.
Stealthy is used of any secret or deceptive action that is careful, quiet, slow, and designed to conceal a motive: a cat stalks its prey in a stealthy manner; she heard the stealthy footsteps of a prowler outside the house.
Furtive adds to stealthy the suggestion of quickness and cunning. The word comes from the Latin furtum, theft, and that which is furtive exhibits the craftiness, dishonesty, and evasiveness of a thief: “Their furtive glances at each other during the meeting convinced Jim that there was something fishy about the deal”; “Suzanne knew her date with Arnold was going to be a disaster when she caught him making a furtive attempt to look down the front of her dress.”
Clandestine applies to that which is done secretly to conceal an evil, immoral, or illicit purpose: a clandestine love affair; a clandestine plot to overthrow the government.
Covert applies to anything deliberately covered up or disguised, and often suggests an effort to conceal something illegal or unethical. When we speak of an undercover operation, we usually mean a secret operation sanctioned by law, but when we speak of a covert operation, we usually mean one that is kept secret because it is criminal or corrupt.
I’d like to take a moment to explain why I prefer and recommend the pronunciation KUH-vurt. This is the traditional pronunciation, and it was the only way of saying the word recognized by dictionaries until the 1960s. Since then—and especially since the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, when “KOH-vurt operation” was heard repeatedly on radio and television—the variant KOH-vurt has become so popular that several dictionaries now list it first.
Although few people today are aware that KUH-vurt was the earlier and only standard pronunciation, dictionaries still list KUH-vurt and many older educated speakers prefer KUH-vurt out of respect for the word’s tradition, which dates back to the fourteenth century. If you’d rather go with the flow on this issue, that’s fine—no one can say you’re wrong; however, keep in mind that while KOH-vurt is recognized by current dictionaries, another popular variant, koh-VURT, is often not listed at all. On the other hand, if you are not afraid to distinguish yourself as a cultivated speaker at the risk of raising a few eyebrows, then I invite you to join me in the righteous cause of preserving the traditional pronunciation, KUH-vurt.
And now let’s wind up this not-so-undercover discussion with a look at our keyword, surreptitious. It comes from a Latin word meaning stolen, kidnapped, and ultimately from the Latin verb surripere, to snatch, pilfer, take away or withdraw secretly. By derivation surreptitious means snatched while no one is looking, and in modern usage the word combines the deliberate, cautious secrecy suggested by stealthy with the crafty, evasive secrecy suggested by furtive. That which is surreptitious is done or acquired under the table, in a sly or shifty way, so as to avoid detection: “For years Paul was so surreptitious about his drinking that no one at work knew he had a problem”; “The general decided to launch a surreptitious attack under cover of darkness”; “Larry was afraid the IRS would find out about his surreptitious real estate deals.”
- Word 39: Exemplary [ig-ZEM-pluh-ree]
Worthy of imitation, praiseworthy, commendable, serving as a model of excellence, appropriateness, or correctness.
Synonyms of exemplary include ideal, admirable, meritorious (MER-i-TOR-ee-us), estimable (ES-ti-muh-buul), and laudable (word 25 of Level 4). Antonyms include shameful, disreputable, contemptible, deplorable (di-PLOR-uh-buul), ignominious (IG-nuhMIN-ee-us), odious (OH-dee-us), and heinous (HAY-nis, rhymes with anus).
By the way, heinous means reprehensible, wicked, evil, as a heinous crime, a heinous lie. I have heard scores of educated people mispronounce it as HEE-nis, HEE-nee-us, and HAY-nee-us. The best I can say about these pronunciations is that they are creative but wrong. The only pronunciation recognized by dictionaries is HAY-nis, and anything else is utterly heinous, evil, wicked, reprehensible.
Now back to our more pleasant keyword, exemplary, which comes from the same Latin source as the word example. By derivation, something exemplary sets an example, and is therefore worthy of imitation. Exemplary conduct is praiseworthy. An exemplary performance is commendable. Verbal Advantage teaches you how to use words in an exemplary manner.
- Word 40: Impeccable [im-PEK-uh-buul]
Perfect, faultless, flawless; free from faults or imperfections. Also, unable to do wrong, incapable of sin.
Equally challenging synonyms of impeccable include unimpeachable and irreproachable. Challenging antonyms of impeccable include reprehensible, censurable (SEN-shur-uh-buul), and culpable (KUHL-puh-buul).
Earlier in this level I told you about the prefix in-, which may mean “in” or “into” or have a privative function, depriving or taking away the meaning of what follows. Impeccable combines this privative prefix in-, meaning “not,” with the Latin peccare, to make a mistake, do wrong, blunder, sin. By derivation, impeccable means not able to make a mistake, incapable of sinning or doing wrong; hence, perfect, faultless.
Now, if you’ve been reading carefully I bet you’re wondering why in the world I’m talking about the prefix in- when the prefix in impeccable is im-. Well, my verbally advantaged friend, your exemplary guide through the oddities of the English language has the answer, and here it is:
When the prefix in- is attached to a word beginning with the letter b, p, or m, the n changes to an m. Thus, imbalanced means not balanced; impossible means not possible; and immutable means not mutable, not changeable, fixed. Similarly, when the prefix inappears before a word beginning with l or r, the n changes to an l or an r: illogical means not logical; irreproachable means not reproachable, without fault or blame, and therefore impeccable, perfect, flawless.
So now that you know how the spelling of the prefix in- changes, I suppose you’re wondering why it changes. The answer is simple: ease of pronunciation. If we had to say in peccable and in reproachable, it would be not only in logical but also nearly in possible. The altered spelling of the prefix makes these and dozens of other words easier to pronounce.
Now let’s take a look at the closely related words impeccable, immaculate, and infallible, all of which employ the privative prefix in-, meaning not.
The adjective fallible comes from the Latin verb fallere, to deceive, lead astray, cause to make a mistake. In modern usage fallible means capable of error or likely to be wrong, as human beings are fallible creatures. Attach the prefix in- to fallible and you have the word infallible, not fallible, not capable of making an error, unable to fail. As your infallible guide through Verbal Advantage, I assure you that this program is an infallible method of building your vocabulary.
The unusual noun macula (MAK-yuh-luh) means a spot or stain. Its direct Latin root, macula, meant either a physical spot or blotch or a moral blemish, a stain on one’s character. In current usage macula refers specifically either to a blemish on the skin or to a sunspot; the corresponding adjective maculate means stained, blemished, impure, corrupt. Attach the prefix in- to the adjective maculate and you have the word immaculate, not maculate, unstained, spotless. An immaculate house is spick-and-span; an immaculate complexion has no blemishes; an immaculate reputation or background is spotless, clean as a whistle. In Roman Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception is the doctrine that the Virgin Mary was miraculously conceived without the moral stain of original sin.
And now for our keyword, impeccable. From its Latin root, peccare, to make a mistake, blunder, sin, English has also inherited three other words: the noun peccadillo (PEK-uh-DIL-oh) means a small sin, minor fault or flaw; the adjective peccant (PEKint) means guilty, sinful, culpable; and the adjective peccable (PEK-uh-buul) means liable to sin or do wrong. Slap the privative prefix in- onto the unfortunate peccable and you have its more pleasant antonym, impeccable, incapable of sin, unable to do wrong, and therefore free from all faults or imperfections. Impeccable taste is faultless; impeccable speech is flawless; an impeccable performance is perfect.