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Verbal Advantage – Level 07 Word 21 – Word 30 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 07 Word 21 - Word 30 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 21: Myrmidon [MUR-mi-dahn or MUR-midun]

A loyal follower, faithful servant or subordinate, especially someone who is unquestioningly obedient.


In ancient Greek legend, the Myrmidons were a people of the region of Thessaly (THES-uh-lee) who fought in the Trojan War under their king, the great warrior Achilles (uh-KIL-eez). Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable notes that the Myrmidons “were distinguished for their savage brutality, rude behaviour, and thirst for rapine.” (Now there’s an interesting word: rapine (RAP-in) means pillage, plunder, the act of seizing and carrying off property by force.)

The Oxford English Dictionary traces Myrmidon back to the year 1400, and shows that by the seventeenth century it had come to be used in a general sense to mean “an unscrupulously faithful follower or hireling; a hired ruffian.” The Myrmidons were perhaps in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s mind when he composed the famous lines in his 1855 poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade”: “Theirs not to make reply/Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do and die/Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.”

In current usage, a myrmidon, with a small m, is a loyal follower or an obedient servant, a person who follows orders or executes commands without question and, if necessary, without scruple.

  • Word 22: Nascent [NAS-int—recommended—or NAY-sint]

Beginning to exist or develop; in the process of being born or begun; coming or having just come into being.


Synonyms of nascent include emerging, dawning, developing, commencing, embryonic (EM-bree-AHN-ik), incipient (in-SIP-ee-int), and inchoate (in-KOH-it, word 35 of this level).

Antonyms include ancient, extinct, outworn, outmoded, antiquated, obsolete, senescent (word 9 of Level 7), and antediluvian (AN-tee-di-LOO-vee-in). Antediluvian means of the time before the Deluge (DEL-yooj), the great flood described in the first book of the Bible, Genesis; hence, extremely old or old-fashioned: “The horse and buggy is an antediluvian mode of transportation”; “Bob’s father still prefers to write on an antediluvian manual typewriter.”

There is nothing antediluvian about the word nascent, which comes from the Latin verb nasci, to be born. By derivation, nascent means in the process of being born, beginning to exist or develop. We speak of a nascent idea, a nascent republic, a nascent relationship, nascent anxiety, or nascent hope. The corresponding noun is nascency (NAS-in-see or NAY-), which means birth or beginning: “The year 1776 marks the nascency of American democracy.”

  • Word 23: Accede [ak-SEED]

To consent, yield, give in or agree to.


Synonyms of accede include comply, submit, assent, concur (word 18 of Level 1), and acquiesce (word 31 of Level 4). Antonyms include resist, disagree, oppose, protest, contradict, dispute, dissent, wrangle, and cavil (word 29 of Level 3).

The verbs accede, acquiesce, assent, concur, and consent all suggest agreement. Consent implies voluntary agreement: You consent to another’s wishes. Concur implies agreement reached independently: When you concur with a statement, you agree on your own without pressure from the person who made it. Assent implies agreement reached after careful consideration or deliberation: When you assent to a plan, you agree to it after discussion or careful thought. Acquiesce implies agreement offered despite tacit reservations: the person who acquiesces often is unwilling to agree but lacks the will or the energy to resist.

Accede, our keyword, comes from the Latin accedere, to approach, come near. Accede implies agreement in which one person or party gives in to persuasion or yields under pressure. When you accede, you yield your position and give in to a demand or request, often under pressure: “They acceded to the proposal on certain conditions”; “After renegotiating various points, we acceded to the terms of the contract”; “The union refused to accede to the company’s demands.”

Accede may also be used to mean to attain or assume an office or title, as to accede to the throne, to accede to the presidency.

  • Word 24: Magnanimous [mag-NAN-i-mus]

Noble, honorable, generous in overlooking injury or insult, highminded, unselfish.


People with an abiding faith in the goodness of human nature believe that we are noble, unselfish, and generous more often than we are ignoble, selfish, and grasping. The English vocabulary, however, suggests otherwise. In a language comprising well over a million words, there is a dearth of synonyms for magnanimous. Chalk up the words noble, honorable, generous, unselfish, and high-minded, and the list is almost exhausted; if you stretch things a bit you can add courageous, exalted, and lofty for the noble, high-minded connotation of magnanimous, and charitablealtruistic (AL-troo-IS-tik), and beneficent (buh-NEF-i-sint) for the generous, unselfish connotation.

On the other hand, the language abounds with antonyms for magnanimous. Browse through any thesaurus and you will find a cornucopia (KOR-n(y)uh-KOH-pee-uh) of these ignoble, selfish words. Here is a selection of my favorites: vile, contemptible, malicious, despicable (traditionally and properly DES-pik-uh-buul), ignominious (IG-noh-MIN-ee-us), covetous (KUHV-uh-tus), avaricious (word 40 of Level 2), mercenary (word 14 of Level 3), venal (VEEnul), vindictive (word 39 of Level 5), churlishsordidabject (word 50 of Level 4), servilesycophantic (SIK-uh-FAN-tik), and finally, because we can’t go on with this forever, we have the utterly ignoble word pusillanimous (PYOO-si-LAN-i-mus), which means cowardly, weak, and mean-spirited. We will discuss pusillanimous further in Level 9.

The noble word magnanimous comes from the Latin magnus, great, and animus, spirit, and means literally great-spirited. In modern usage magnanimous means having or displaying a noble and generous soul; specifically, showing noble generosity in overlooking injury or insult. It applies either to persons who possess a generous, lofty, and courageous spirit, or to persons or actions that are unselfish, high-minded, and free from pettiness or vindictiveness.

Noble and magnanimous are close in meaning. According to the Century Dictionarynoble expresses that which “in character and conduct…is appropriate to exalted place,” and “admits no degree of the petty, mean, base, or dishonorable.” Magnanimous “describes that largeness of mind that has breadth enough and height enough to take in large views, broad sympathies, [and] exalted standards. It generally implies superiority of position: as, a nation so great as the United States…can afford to be magnanimous in its treatment of injuries or affronts from nations comparatively weak.”

The corresponding noun is magnanimity, noble generosity, greatness or dignity of mind or heart: “He is a man of such magnanimity that he will do everything in his power to aid a worthy cause, no matter how unpopular it may be.”

  • Word 25: Nonage [NAHN-ij]

Immaturity, youth; especially the period of legal minority, the state of being a minor in the eyes of the law.


Nonage comes through Middle English from Anglo-French, the language of the Normans, who conquered England in 1066. Nonage combines the prefix non-, meaning “not,” with the word age to mean literally “not of age.”

Nonage may be used either generally to refer to any period of immaturity, or specifically to mean the state of being a minor. People in their nonage are under the lawful age for doing certain things such as marrying, making contracts, driving a motor vehicle, voting, or buying alcoholic beverages.

  • Word 26: Invective [in-VEK-tiv]

Vehement or abusive language involving bitter, scathing accusations or denunciations.


Synonyms of invective include slander, defamation, aspersion (uhSPUR-zhun), objurgation (word 12 of this level), billingsgate (BIL-ingz-GAYT), vituperation (vy-T(Y)OO-puh-RAY-shin), and obloquy (AHB-luh-kwee).

Antonyms of invective include praise, commendation, adulation (AJ-uh-LAY-shin), eulogy (YOO-luh-jee), and encomium (en-KOHmee-um).

Let’s take a closer look at the words billingsgate, vituperation, and obloquy, which, like invective, denote various forms of abusive language.

Billingsgate comes from the name of one of the ancient gates of the city of London, near which stood a fish market. Apparently, not only did this market smell foul, as fish markets often do, but legend has it that the vendors and patrons also stunk up the place by exhibiting a proclivity for foul language. From those foul beginnings, billingsgate has come to mean abusive language that is filthy and obscene.

Vituperation has no such odorous etymology. Vituperation comes from a Latin verb meaning to scold or blame, and today denotes either a prolonged and vicious scolding or harsh, abusive language that violently scolds or blames.

Obloquy comes from the Latin ob-, meaning “against,” and loqui, to speak. Obloquy refers to abusive language—and particularly abusive speech—whose express purpose is to defame or disgrace. If someone tries to ruin your reputation by abusing you either in conversation or in print, that’s obloquy. And when obloquy strikes, you can react with equanimity (word 46 of Level 6), which you will recall means “composure, calm indifference,” or you can respond with invective, bitter, vehement accusations or denunciations.

In Synonyms Discriminated, published in 1879, Charles Johnson Smith explains that “Abuse…is…personal and coarse, being conveyed in harsh and unseemly terms, and dictated by angry feeling and bitter temper. Invective is more commonly aimed at character or conduct, and may be conveyed in writing and in refined language, and dictated by indignation against what is in itself blameworthy. It often, however, means public abuse under such restraints as are imposed by position and education.”

More than a hundred years later, Smith’s distinction still holds: When someone uses coarse, harsh, or obscene language to disparage or intimidate another, we call it verbal abuse. When the abuse occurs in a public context, and takes the form of a bitter, vehement verbal attack that remains just barely within the bounds of decency, we call it invective. Thus, today we speak of a newspaper editorial full of invective; the invective exchanged in a bitter political contest; a snubbed author hurling invective at his critics; or an opinionated radio talk show host who issues a stream of invective against his ideological foes.

Invective comes ultimately from the Latin verb invehere, which means to attack with words. From the same source comes the English verb to inveigh (in-VAY). Like its Latin ancestor, to inveigh means to attack violently with words, protest furiously or express angry disapproval. Inveigh is always followed by against, as to inveigh against authority; to inveigh against an unfair company policy; to inveigh against an abuse of First Amendment rights.

  • Word 27: Machination [MAK-i-NAY-shin]

A crafty or treacherous plot, malicious scheme, cunning design or plan to achieve a sinister purpose.


Synonyms of machination include stratagem, conspiracy, contrivance, ruse (properly ROOZ, rhyming with lose and shoes), and cabal (kuh-BAHL or kuh-BAL).

Machination comes from the Latin verb machinari, to plot, devise, contrive to do evil, which comes in turn from the noun machina, a device or contrivance for performing work. From the spelling of the Latin machina it’s easy to deduce that it is also the source of the familiar and versatile word machine, something devised to perform work.

The Latin machina also appears in a phrase that has been taken whole into English: deus ex machina (DAY-uus eks MAH-ki-nuh), which means literally “a god out of a machine.” In his delightful book Amo, Amas, Amat: How to Use Latin to Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others (1985), Eugene Ehrlich translates deus ex machina as “an unlikely and providential intervention,” and explains that the phrase “describes an unexpected occurrence that rescues someone or something from an apparently hopeless predicament.” Although deus ex machina is Latin, Ehrlich tells us that “the expression has its origin in ancient Greek theater…. When the complexities of plot and character appeared incapable of resolution, a god was set down on stage by a mechanical crane to sort out things and make them right.”

Our keyword, machination, means a crafty plot, malicious scheme, cunning plan to achieve a sinister purpose, as a machination to seize power. In current usage the singular form is less common than the plural, machinations: “Ralph’s deviousness enabled him to climb the company ladder, but when his machinations finally were exposed he found himself demoted to the mailroom.” You might think that machinations are confined to the crafty worlds of business and politics and to the sinister arena of international espionage, but the word is also sometimes used in a literary or metaphorical way, in such phrases as “the machinations of love,” which can often be a treacherous business, or “the machinations of our dreams,” which are often devious, or “the machinations of destiny,” which may seem to plot against us.

I shall conclude this crafty lesson with an important pronunciation tip. Certain educated speakers, probably misled by the sound of the ch in machine, have adopted the pronunciation mashination. This beastly mashination is a classic example of what happens when people learn the meaning of a word but don’t bother to check the pronunciation in a dictionary. They simply looked at machination, saw the word machine inside, and decided to say mashination, blithely assuming that their false analogy was right without pausing to consider that the pronunciation they have just invented might not be the one most educated speakers prefer. That, in a nutshell, is how eccentric pronunciations are born—and the worst thing about it is that the mispronouncers often flaunt their inventions, as if to show that they have placed their personal stamp on the language by making up a bizarre way to say a word.

Some dictionaries now recognize mashination, but list it after the preferred pronunciation, in which the ch is pronounced like k: (MAK-i-NAY-shin).

  • Word 28: Docile [DAHS-’l]

Submissive, obedient, compliant; easy to direct, manage, or supervise; following instructions.


Synonyms of docile include amenable, deferential, malleable (word 29 of Level 2), tractable, acquiescent, and obsequious (word 3 of this level).

Antonyms include willful, wayward, headstrong, obstinate (word 34 of Level 1), intractable (word 12 of Level 5), intransigent (inTRAN-si-jint, word 4 of Level 8), and refractory (word 42 of Level 6).

Docile comes through the Latin docilis, teachable, from docere, to teach, instruct. From the same source comes the word docent (DOH-sint). A docent is either a teacher at a university who is not a member of the faculty, or a lecturing tour guide in a museum, cathedral, or some such place of cultural interest. By the way, in your travels through museums and the like, you may hear the phrase “docent guide,” which is redundant. A docent guide is a “guide guide,” because docent means a guide trained to lecture on what is being viewed. Think of me as your docent in the museum of the English language.

Our keyword, docile, by derivation means teachable. In modern usage docile has two closely related senses. It may mean easy to teach or instruct, as a docile pupil, or it may mean submissive, obedient, as a docile pet, or a docile employee—which is not to imply that employees in general are analogous to pets, but only that some employees are docile, easy to direct, manage, or supervise.

The corresponding noun is docility: “A dictatorship or totalitarian state derives its power only from the docility of the people.”

Occasionally you may hear docile pronounced DOH-syl. DOHsyl is the preference of British and Canadian speakers. The preferred American pronunciation is DAHS-’l.

  • Word 29: Redoubtable [ri-DOW-tuh-buul]

Formidable, fearsome, arousing awe or dread; hence, worthy of or commanding respect.


Redoubtable comes through Middle English from an Old French verb meaning to fear or dread, and ultimately from the Latin dubitare, to doubt, waver in opinion or action, the source also of the words dubious, which means doubtful or questionable, and dubiety (d(y)oo-BY-i-tee), which means doubtfulness, uncertainty, wavering.

Perhaps because the things we find dubious or that make us waver are often the same things we find disturbing or frightening, redoubtable has come to apply to that which we fear and respect because we doubt our ability to match, oppose, or overcome it. In modern usage, redoubtable means fearsome, formidable (stress on for-, remember?), commanding respect, and may apply either to people or to things.

We speak of the legendary Hercules as a redoubtable hero; of drug abuse as a redoubtable social problem; of AIDS as a redoubtable disease; of the redoubtable genius of Albert Einstein; of a rivalry between two redoubtable football teams; or of small airline companies facing redoubtable competition from the big carriers.

In current usage redoubtable sometimes is used to achieve a humorous, gently mocking effect. For example, back when Johnny Carson was host of “The Tonight Show,” on which the actress Shelley Winters was a frequent guest, I remember Carson once cut to a commercial with this quip: “Don’t go away, because we’ll be right back with the redoubtable Shelley Winters.”

  • Word 30: Prognosticate [prahg-NAHS-ti-kayt]

To predict; especially, to predict from signs, symptoms, or present indications.


Synonyms of prognosticate include foretell, forecast, foresee, prophesy (PRAHF-i-SY), presage (pri-SAYJ), and vaticinate (va-TIS-i-NAYT).

Prognosticate comes through Latin from Greek, and by derivation means “a knowing beforehand, foreknowledge.” From the same source we inherit several related words.

Prognostic (prahg-NAHS-tik), used as a noun, means an indication of something in the future. Used as an adjective, prognostic means pertaining to or serving as the basis of a prediction, as prognostic powers or prognostic evidence.

The noun prognostication (prahg-NAHS-ti-KAY-shin) means a prediction, prophecy, forecast, as the prognostications of economists are not always reliable.

Prognosticator (prahg-NAHS-ti-KAY-tur) is a lofty word for “a person who makes predictions.” If you want to be grandiloquent, you could say the reporter who does your local weather forecast is a prognosticator, or that a coworker who is always making predictions about affairs in the office is the office prognosticator.

Finally, the useful noun prognosis (prahg-NOH-sis) means a prediction of the probable course and outcome of a disease or medical condition.

Prognosis and diagnosis should be sharply distinguished. A diagnosis is an assessment of a medical condition. When you ask your doctor, “What’s the diagnosis?” you are asking for the doctor’s opinion of what is wrong based on a clinical analysis of signs and symptoms. When you ask your doctor, “What’s the prognosis?” you are asking the doctor to predict the likely course and outcome of the condition based on whatever treatment is administered—in other words, to tell you whether the problem will get better or worse. In short, a diagnosis describes the nature of the medical condition; a prognosis predicts its likely course and outcome.

Our keyword, prognosticate, means to make a prognosis or prediction. Prognosticate applies especially to the act of predicting from signs, symptoms, or present indications. Political pundits attempt to prognosticate the outcome of an election. Financial analysts prognosticate trends in the stock market. Your horoscope in the newspaper purports to prognosticate from the alignment of the planets what may lie in store for you that day.

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