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Verbal Advantage – Level 06 Word 41 – Word 50 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 06 Word 41 - Word 50 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 41: Cacophony [kuh-KAHF-uh-nee]

A harsh, jarring sound, especially a harsh and unpleasant blend of sounds.


Synonyms of cacophony include dissonance (DIS-uh-nints), discord (DIS-kord), disharmony, and stridency (STRY-den-see). Antonyms include silence, tranquility, serenity, placidity (pla-SID-itee), and quiescence (kwy-ES-ints), the noun corresponding to the adjective quiescent (word 22 of Level 3).

Cacophony comes from the Greek kakos, bad, and phoné, sound, and by derivation means “bad-sounding.”

You can see the influence of the Greek phoné, sound, in the English words phonetic (fuh-NET-ik), pertaining to or representing the sounds of speech; symphony, which means literally “sounding together”; and telephone, which by derivation means “a voice from afar.”

The Greek kakos, bad, is the source of the English prefix caco-, which appears in front of a number of interesting English words to mean “bad” or “wrong.” For example, cacography (kuh-KOGruh-fee) is bad writing; cacology (kuh-KAHL-uh-jee) is bad speaking or a bad choice of words; cacoepy (KAK-oh-uh-pee or kuh-KOH-uh-pee or KAK-oh-EP-ee) is bad pronunciation, as opposed to orthoepy (OR-thoh-uh-pee or or-THOH-uh-pee or OR-thoh-EP-ee), good pronunciation; a caconym (KAK-uh-nim) is a bad or erroneous name; a cacodoxy (KAK-uh-DAHK-see) is a wrong or unacceptable opinion (cacodoxy is a synonym of heterodoxy, which I mentioned earlier in the discussion of heterodox, word 34 of this level); cacoeconomy (KAK-oh-ee-KAHN-uh-mee) is bad economy or bad management; and, last but not least, we have the fascinating word cacoëthes (KAK-oh-EE-theez).

Cacoëthes combines the Greek kakos, bad, with ethos, habit, and means a bad habit, incurable itch, or an insatiable urge or desire: “Mary could overlook John’s fingernail biting, excuse his excessive smoking and drinking, and forgive his frequent use of foul language, but the one obnoxious habit she could not bring herself to condone was his addiction to channel surfing. That, in her estimation, was his most loathsome cacoëthes.”

And now let’s return to our keyword, cacophony. Any harsh, jarring sound, and especially any harsh and unpleasant blend of sounds, can be described as a cacophony: the cacophony of traffic; a cacophony of angry voices; the cacophony created by a major construction project; the cacophony of newborn babies crying in the nursery.

The corresponding adjective is cacophonous (kuh-KAHF-uh-nus), having a harsh, unpleasant, jarring sound: “The hungry animals in the barnyard together raised a cacophonous complaint”; “It seemed that every day the tranquility of his well-manicured suburban street was disturbed by a cacophonous orchestra of lawnmowers, blowers, and edgers.” Synonyms of cacophonous include dissonant (DIS-uh-nint), discordant (dis-KOR-dint), raucous (RAW-kus), and strident (STRY-dent).

  • Word 42: Refractory [ri-FRAK-tur-ee]

Stubborn and disobedient, actively resisting authority or control, unruly, impossible to work with or manage.


Because the human animal is so often stubborn, disobedient, and unruly, English abounds with words for these qualities. Synonyms of refractory include willful, headstrong, ungovernable, rebellious, obstinate (word 34 of Level 1), intractable (word 12 of Level 5), perverserecalcitrant (ri-KAL-si-trant), intransigent (inTRAN-si-jint, word 4 of Level 8), and contumacious (KAHN-t(y)oo-MAY-shus).

Antonyms of refractory include obedient, submissive, compliant, deferential, malleable (word 29 of Level 2), docile (word 28 of Level 7), tractable (see word 12 of Level 5), acquiescent (AK-weeES-int), and obsequious (uhb-SEE-kwee-us, word 3 of Level 7).

I know that’s a lot of words to stuff in your head, so let’s take a moment to clarify some of them.

Refractory, intractable, contumacious, intransigent, and recalcitrant all suggest stubborn resistance to control.

Recalcitrant comes from the Latin re-, meaning “back,” and calcitrare, to kick, and means literally to kick back. The recalcitrant person resists direction or control in a rebellious and sometimes violent manner.

Intransigent, both by derivation and in modern usage, means unwilling to compromise. The intransigent person takes an extreme position and will not budge an inch.

Contumacious means stubborn in an insolent way. The contumacious person displays willful and openly contemptuous resistance to established authority. Examples of contumacious behavior would include insulting a police officer and ignoring a summons to appear in court.

Intractable comes from the Latin tractare, which means to drag around, haul, and also to manage, control. Intractable implies passive resistance to direction. The intractable person refuses to cooperate and must be dragged along. An intractable problem does not respond to any attempt at a solution and stubbornly refuses to go away.

Our keyword, refractory, applies to anyone or anything that is stubbornly disobedient and that actively resists authority or control. Horses, mules, machinery, and children are often described as refractory, but the word may also be applied appropriately to many other things, such as materials that are resistant to heat or chemical agents, or a medical condition that resists treatment, as a refractory case of athlete’s foot.

  • Word 43: Iconoclast [eye-KAHN-uh-klast]

A person who attacks cherished or popular beliefs, traditions, or institutions; someone who destroys or denounces an established idea or practice.


Iconoclast comes from the Greek eikonoklastes, an imagebreaker, a person who smashes icons or images. Originally the word referred to a person who destroyed religious images, or who was opposed to the use or worship of religious images. In modern usage iconoclast refers to a person who attacks, denounces, or ridicules cherished ideas or beliefs, or to someone who advocates the overthrow or destruction of established customs or institutions.

Synonyms of the noun iconoclast include radical, extremist, insurgent (in-SUR-jent), and firebrand. The corresponding adjective is iconoclastic, attacking or opposing established or popular beliefs, customs, or institutions.

  • Word 44: Enervate [EN-ur-vayt]

To weaken, drain of energy, deprive of force or vigor.


Synonyms of enervate include exhaust, deplete, devitalize, and debilitate. Antonyms include energize, invigorate, stimulate, revive, enliven, animate, vitalize, and fortify.

Whenever I am asked to appear on a radio show to discuss language or speak to a group about vocabulary building, I like to point out that the simple act of reading is probably the best yet most underrated method of building word power. If you want to learn more words, then you should read more and study words in context; at the same time, however, when you come across a word you don’t know, or a word you think you know, it’s essential that you make the effort to look it up in a dictionary, because the context can often be misleading or ambiguous.

To illustrate that point, I like to relate an anecdote about a woman—the mother of a teenager—who came to one of the author signings for my book Tooth and Nail, a vocabulary-building mystery novel designed to teach high school students the words they need to know for the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).

“I think your idea of teaching vocabulary in the context of a story is great,” the woman told me. “I can almost always figure out what a word means from context, and I hardly ever need to use a dictionary.”

Whenever people assert that they can guess what a word means or that they rarely need to use a dictionary, I see a big red flag with the words “verbally disadvantaged” on it.

I looked at the woman and said, “I always encourage people to check the dictionary definition of a word, even if it’s a word they think they know. It’s not always so easy to guess what a word means from context, because the context doesn’t always reveal the meaning. May I give you an example?”

“Sure,” the woman said, confident of her ability to guess what words mean and unaware of my devilish plot to expose that practice as a fallacy.

“All right,” I said. “I’ll give you a word in the context of a complete sentence, and you tell me what the word means. Here’s the sentence: ‘After her exciting night on the town, she felt enervated.’ Can you tell me what enervated means?”

The woman frowned, realizing that she had volunteered to go wading in verbal quicksand. “Um, well, I guess if her night on the town was exciting, she must have felt stimulated, or keyed-up, or maybe energized. Is that what enervated means?”

Coldhearted inquisitor and unflinching defender of the language that I am, I told her the truth. Because enervate sounds like energize, many people are tempted to think the words are synonymous when in fact they are antonyms. From my sample sentence, “After her exciting night on the town, she felt enervated,” if you don’t know precisely what enervated means there’s no way you can guess because the context is ambiguous— it’s vague and capable of being interpreted in more than one way.

The point is, as I’ve said several times before in this program, if you want to build a large and exact vocabulary, don’t rely only on context or on your intuition or on someone else’s definition of a word. When you have even a shred of doubt about a word, look it up. It won’t cost you anything to do that, and no one’s going to peer over your shoulder and say, “Hey, what’s the matter, stupid? You don’t know what enervated means?” On the other hand, someone might say “Whoa, get a load of Verbal Advantage-head digging through the dictionary again.”

If something like that should ever happen, you can throw the book at the person—literally—but why ruin a good dictionary? Instead, you can rest easy in the knowledge that the insolent dullard already is eating your intellectual dust—for you, as a verbally advantaged person, know that reading, consulting a dictionary, and studying this book will invigorate, not enervate, your mind.

To enervate means to weaken, drain of energy, deprive of force or vigor. The corresponding adjective is enervated, lacking energy, drained of vitality or strength.

  • Word 45: Levity [LEV-i-tee]

Lightness or gaiety of manner or expression; specifically, a lightness or lack of seriousness that is inappropriate or unbecoming.


Levity comes from the Latin levitas, lightness, which in turn comes from levis, light, the source also of the familiar words levitate and levitationLevity occasionally is used literally to mean buoyancy, the state or quality of having little weight, and it is also sometimes used to mean inconstancy, fickleness, or flightiness. In current usage, however, levity most often denotes a figurative lack of gravity, a lightness or lack of seriousness unsuitable to the occasion.

Synonyms of levity in this most common sense include silliness, foolishness, frivolity (fri-VAHL-i-tee), flippancy (FLIP-’n-see), tomfoolerytriviality, and jocularity (JAHK-yoo-LAR-i-tee). Antonyms include seriousness, earnestness, sobriety, solemnity (suhLEM-ni-tee), and gravity.

When you are trying to fix a word in your mind and make it a permanent part of your vocabulary, it helps if you can associate it with a vivid image or experience. The experience I associate with the word levity occurred way back in high school, which in my case was a small coeducational boarding school in western Massachussetts.

One night in the dormitory some friends and I were up late, several hours after “bedcheck,” our prepschool term for “lights-out time.” We were shooting the breeze, laughing and joking, being loud and boisterous, and generally behaving in a puerile manner, when suddenly the door flew open and one of the English teachers stepped into the room.

Instantly, we all shut up. In the long moment of silence that followed, the teacher looked at each of us like Clint Eastwood trying to decide whether some deadbeat has enough brains to pack his lunch. Finally he spoke. “This is no time for levity,” he growled. “Go to your rooms and go to bed.”

To this day, when I think of the word levity I think of what that teacher said, and with a chuckle I remember that levity means foolishness, frivolity, a lightness or lack of seriousness that is inappropriate or unbecoming.

  • Word 46: Equanimity [EE-kwuh-NIM-i-tee]

Composure, calmness, evenness of mind and temper.


Equanimity comes through French from the Latin aequanimitas, calmness, which in turn comes from aequus, which means “even” or “level,” and animus, which means “mind” or “spirit.” By derivation equanimity means precisely what it does today: composure, calmness, evenness of mind and temper.

Synonyms of equanimity include poise, self-possession, serenity, tranquility, placidity (pla-SID-i-tee), imperturbability (IM-pur-TUR-buh-BIL-i-tee), and sang-froid (saw(n)-FRWAH). As I imagine you can tell from its peculiar spelling and pronunciation, sang-froid comes from French. Although sang-froid means literally “cold blood,” it is used figuratively to mean coolness of mind.

Equanimity and composure are close synonyms, but they differ slightly in their use. Composure implies self-control. We maintain our composure under trying circumstances. Equanimity suggests an inherent mental and emotional balance, and applies to a person who stays calm and collected under all circumstances.

  • Word 47: Stricture [STRIK-chur]

A criticism, critical comment, especially an unfavorable or hostile observation or remark.


Synonyms of stricture include reproof, censure (word 28 of Level 3), condemnation, disapprobation (DIS-ap-ruh-BAY-shin), castigation (KAS-ti-GAY-shin), objurgation (AHB-jur-GAY-shin, word 12 of Level 7), and animadversion (AN-i-mad-VUR-zhun). Antonyms include praise, compliment, commendation, acclamation (AK-luh-MAY-shin), and plaudit (PLAW-dit).

Plaudit, applause, and applaud all come from the Latin plaudere, to clap the hands, express approval. A plaudit is an enthusiastic expression of approval or praise. It’s always pleasant to be on the receiving end of a plaudit, and it’s always unpleasant to be on the receiving end of a stricture, an unfavorable criticism or hostile remark.

Stricture comes from the Latin strictus, the past participle of the verb stringere, to draw tight, bind, the source also of the English words strict and stringentStringent (STRIN-jint) means tight, constricted, or rigorous and severe. We often speak of stringent laws, stringent measures, stringent regulations, or a stringent economic policy.

In medicine, stricture is used to mean a contraction or narrowing of a duct or passage in the body. Stricture is also sometimes used as a synonym of limitation or restriction, as “to place strictures on imported goods.” Most often, though, stricture is used to mean a sharply critical comment, especially one that passes judgment or points out a fault in an antagonistic way: “During the debate, he displayed admirable equanimity when responding to his opponent’s strictures.”

Bear in mind that stricture is a noun, not a verb. In other words, you cannot stricture something, but if you have an unfavorable opinion of a person or a thing, you can express your strictures, sharp criticisms or hostile remarks.

  • Word 48: Opulent [AHP-yuh-lint]

Rich, wealthy, very well-to-do, having substantial means.


Antonyms of opulent include indigent, destitute, and impecunious, which are discussed under indigent, word 39 of Level 3.

The adjectives opulent (AHP-yuh-lint), affluent (AF-loo-int— stress the first syllable), and prosperous all connote wealth and success. Prosperous often is used interchangeably with wealthy, but in precise usage prosperous means marked by continued success, thriving, flourishing. A prosperous business is a successful, thriving business, and because successful businesses are profitable it is also likely to be an affluent business. Affluent, which comes from the Latin fluere, to flow, suggests a constant flow or increase of wealth accompanied by free or lavish spending.

Opulent comes through the Latin opulentus, rich, wealthy, and opis, power, might, ultimately from the name Ops (rhymes with tops). In ancient Roman mythology, Ops was the goddess of the harvest and the wife of Saturn, the god of agriculture who presided over the sowing of the fields. Because of this etymological connection to agricultural abundance, opulent is sometimes used to mean ample or plentiful, but in current usage opulent most often applies either to a person who possesses great wealth and property or to a luxurious or ostentatious display of great wealth. If your lifestyle is affluent, you are making and spending large sums of money. If your lifestyle is opulent, you already have plenty of moolah and you enjoy showing off what it can buy.

The corresponding noun is opulence, great wealth or a display of great wealth. A couplet from the eighteenth-century English satirist Jonathan Swift nicely illustrates this word: “There in full opulence a banker dwelt/Who all the joys and pangs of riches felt.”

  • Word 49: Disparage [di-SPAR-ij]

To belittle, depreciate, discredit, lower in estimation or value, speak of or treat as inferior.


Familiar synonyms of disparage include abuse (uh-BYOOZ), ridicule, scorn, slander, defame, and censure (word 28 of Level 3). Challenging synonyms of disparage include denigrate (DEN-iGRAYT), malign (muh-LYN), vilify (VIL-uh-fy, word 32 of Level 9), traduce (truh-D(Y)OOS, word 42 of Level 9), and calumniate (kuhLUHM-nee-ayt).

You’d never guess from looking at it, but the word disparage is related to the noun peer, an equal, a person of equal status. Peer comes from the Latin par, meaning “equal,” the direct source of the familiar English word par, which is perhaps most often heard in the phrase “on a par with,” meaning on an equal footing. The meanings of par and peer sit quietly in the middle of the word disparage, which comes from an Old French verb that meant to marry unequally, marry a person who was not a peer or on a par with your rank in society.

To marry an inferior person, someone beneath one’s station, was the meaning of disparage when the word entered English in the fourteenth century. Later it came to mean to degrade, lower in dignity or position, as “The prince disparaged himself by helping the servants prepare the meal.”

From those now-obsolete senses evolved the modern meaning of disparage, to belittle, depreciate, lower in estimation or value. When you disparage someone or something, you speak of it or treat it as inferior: “Some people claim astrology is a legitimate science; others disparage it as foolish superstition.”

The corresponding adjective is disparaging, as a disparaging remark or disparaging words. The corresponding noun is disparagement, as “The city council’s plan for economic recovery received only disparagement in the press.”

  • Word 50: Discursive [dis-KUR-siv]

Rambling, roving, covering a wide range of topics, wandering from one subject to another.


Don’t be confused by the presence of the word cursive in discursiveDiscursive has nothing to do either with cursing or with cursive script, in which the letters are joined or flow together. Discursive comes from the Latin discursus, running about, the past participle of the verb discurrere, to run to and fro or in different directions. In modern usage, discursive applies to speech or writing that runs to and fro or in many different directions.

Discursive, desultory (DES-ul-TOR-ee, rhymes with wrestle story), and digressive (di-GRES-iv or dy-) are close in meaning.

Digressive means straying from the point, wandering away from the topic under consideration. Digressive remarks about what you discussed in your last therapy session don’t go over well in a job interview.

Desultory means passing or leaping from one topic to another in an aimless, disconnected way. Conversation at a lively party is often desultory, and many of our dreams have a desultory quality.

Discursive means rambling or roving over a wide range of topics without developing a unified theme or making a central point: “After dinner and a few drinks, Ben’s father was prone to indulge in long, discursive monologues that always began with complaints about business and politics, then moved on to observations about sports, and eventually concluded—after several more drinks— with a detailed assessment of the physical attributes of various female celebrities.”

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