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Verbal Advantage – Level 07 Word 41 – Word 50 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 07 Word 41 - Word 50 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 41: Nepotism [NEP-uh-tiz-’m]

Favoritism shown to relatives.


Nepotism comes through French and Italian from the Latin nepos, nepotis, a nephew or grandson. According to the Century Dictionary (1914), “the word was invented [in the seventeenth century] to characterize a propensity of the popes and other high ecclesiastics in the Roman Catholic Church to aggrandize their family by exorbitant grants or favors to nephews or relatives.”

In current usage nepotism denotes favoritism shown to any relative, and the word usually applies to situations in business and public life where relatives are shown preference over nonrelatives and receive privileges or positions that they may not necessarily deserve. Thus, if you give your niece money to help her buy a house or persuade a friend to hire your unemployed brother, it’s not nepotism. However, when you hire your brother the bricklayer as vice president of your sporting goods company, and when you give your niece—the high-school dropout who can’t type—a secretarial job and six months later promote her to office manager, those are flagrant acts of nepotism.

The corresponding adjective is nepotistic (NEP-uh-TIS-tik).

  • Word 42: Ribald [RIB-uld]

Humorous in a mildly indecent, coarse, or vulgar way.


Here’s what three leading American dictionaries have to say about our humorously indecent keyword: The third edition of The American Heritage Dictionary (1992) says that ribald implies “vulgar, coarse, off-color language or behavior that provokes mirth.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition (1998), says that ribald “applies to what is amusingly or picturesquely vulgar or irreverent or mildly indecent.” And Webster’s New World Dictionary, third college edition (1997), says that ribald suggests “mild indecency or lewdness as might bring laughter from those who are not too squeamish,” and refers especially to that which deals with sex “in a humorously earthy or direct way.”

Ribald has an appropriately earthy etymology. It comes from an Old French noun meaning a lewd or wanton person; this wanton noun comes in turn from an Old French verb meaning to be sexually abandoned; and this loose verb is related to an Old High German word that meant figuratively to copulate and literally to rub. Although Hamlet’s oft-quoted line “Ay, there’s the rub” is not a reference to his ribald fantasies about Ophelia, many of Shakespeare’s plays contain ribald jokes and puns whose mildly coarse and indecent sexual overtones have provoked laughter from audiences for more than four hundred years.

Synonyms of ribald include gross, indelicate, lewd, immodest, sensual, and obscene. Bear in mind, however, that obscene suggests lewdness or indecency that is strongly offensive, whereas ribald applies to coarse vulgarity that is humorous and only mildly indecent.

Antonyms of ribald include refined, decent, polite, tasteful, cultured, polished, cultivated, decorous (DEK-ur-us), and urbane (urBAYN).

The corresponding noun is ribaldry, which means language or behavior that is humorous in a mildly indecent or vulgar way.

Let me conclude this discussion with a pronunciation tip: Some speakers have adopted the indelicate spelling pronunciation RYbawld, and certain dictionaries that cater to the gross whims of the vulgar masses now record RY-bawld. I urge you to eschew this unrefined variant, and also to avoid the equally uncultivated RIBawld. There is no rye and there is no bald in ribald. The word should rhyme with scribbled and dribbled.

And speaking of rhyme, for your verbal advantage, edification, and delight, I have composed a ribald limerick to help you remember the proper pronunciation of the word:

William Shakespeare, whenever he scribbled,
Used a quill that incessantly dribbled;
When his pen leaked a lot,
It made Willy quite hot,
And he wrote something suitably ribald.

  • Word 43: Avuncular [uh-VUHNGK-yuh-lur]

Like an uncle, pertaining to an uncle, or exhibiting some characteristic considered typical of an uncle.


The noun uncle and the adjective avuncular both come from the Latin avunculus, a mother’s brother. You may use avuncular to describe some characteristic of your own or someone else’s uncle, but the word most often applies to anything suggestive or typical of an uncle. We speak of an avuncular smile, an avuncular slap on the back, avuncular concern, avuncular generosity, and avuncular advice. “I want you for the U.S. Army” is the fingerpointing, avuncular injunction of Uncle Sam.

  • Word 44: Supplicate [SUHP-li-kayt]

To ask, beg, or plead for humbly and earnestly.


Synonyms of supplicate include entreat, petition, importune, and beseech.

The verb to supplicate comes from the Latin supplicare, to kneel, get on one’s knees, which in turn comes from supplex, kneeling, on one’s knees. By derivation, to supplicate means to beg or plead for something on bended knee. From the same source we also inherit the word supple (SUHP-’l). Occasionally supple is used to mean yielding, compliant, or obsequious, but it is now most often used either literally or figuratively to mean bending easily, limber, flexible, as a supple bough or a supple mind.

The corresponding noun supplication (SUHP-li-KAY-shin) means either a humble and earnest request or the act of begging or pleading for something humbly and earnestly. A person who supplicates or who makes a supplication may be called either a suppliant (SUHP-lee-int) or a supplicant (SUHP-li-kint).

  • Word 45: Irascible [i-RAS-i-buul or eye-RAS-ibuul]

Easily angered, hot-tempered, extremely irritable or touchy.


Synonyms of irascible include cranky, testy, peevish, petulant (PECH-uh-lint), irate, cantankerous (kan-TANGK-uh-rus), contentious (word 16 of Level 7), snappish, choleric (KAHL-ur-ik), captious (KAP-shus), and splenetic (spli-NET-ik).

Antonyms include calm, unruffled, placid, amiable, affable, and equable (EK-wuh-buul).

Irascible and irate (eye-RAYT) both come from the Latin verb irasci, to be angry, which comes in turn from ira, anger, wrath. This Latin ira is also the direct source of the English word ire (like tire without the t).

A person who is full of ire, anger, may be either irate or irascible. Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition (1934), explains that an irate person “is at the moment angry or incensed”; an irascible person “is by temperament prone to anger.” Thus, when something infuriates you, you are seized by ire, anger, and you become irate, temporarily enraged. However, if ire burns within you constantly, if you are by nature easily provoked to anger, then you are irascible. Irascible may also apply to that which displays anger or extreme irritability:

“Steve put up with Randy’s incessant stream of irascible remarks for as long as he could, but eventually enough was enough, and he became irate.”

  • Word 46: Inexorable [in-EK-sur-uh-buul]

Relentless, unyielding, merciless; not able to be stopped, changed, or moved by entreaty or persuasion.


Synonyms of inexorable include unrelenting, unswerving, inflexible, immovable, uncompromising, intransigent (in-TRAN-si-jent, word 4 of Level 8), obdurate (AHB-d(y)uu-rit), and implacable (imPLAK-uh-buul).

Antonyms include flexible, compromising, obliging, compliant, docile (word 28 of this level), tractable, acquiescent (AK-wee-ESint), and complaisant (kum-PLAY-zint).

Inexorable comes from the Latin adjective inexorabilis, not moved by entreaty or supplication. By derivation inexorable means not responsive to earnest pleas or humble prayers, and therefore relentless, unyielding.

Inexorable and implacable are close in meaning. Implacable is the stronger of the two; it applies to feeling, and means incapable of being pacified or appeased. An irascible person might express implacable hatred or implacable resentment. Inexorable means incapable of being moved or changed by petition or persuasion, deaf to all pleas.

According to the Century Dictionary (1914), inexorable “expresses an immovable firmness in refusing to do what one is entreated to do, whether that be good or bad.” It may apply to a person: “Joe pleaded with his manager to give him an extra day of vacation, but his manager was inexorable.” It may also apply to a thing, as “an inexorable campaign to squash the competition and dominate the industry.” It may also be used figuratively, as “The inexorable hand of fate, the inexorable voice of necessity, the inexorable drifting of the sands of time, and the inexorable winds of war all led him to his inexorable doom.” And in my ability to produce clichés to illustrate this word, I am also inexorable, relentless, unyielding, merciless.

  • Word 47: Parvenu [PAHR-vuh-n(y)oo]

An upstart; specifically, a person who suddenly acquires wealth and power and rises to a higher class, but who is not accepted by the members of that class.


Parvenu comes from a French verb meaning to succeed, and means literally “a person newly come into success.” Parvenu almost always is used in a negative sense of a person who gains wealth and standing, but who cannot gain the social acceptance of the wealthy and powerful. In the eyes of the established elite, the parvenu is an upstart—undeserving, uncultured, immodest, and often pretentious.

Those masters of the fine art of condescenscion, the French, have condescended to give English another useful term for this sort of person: arriviste (AR-ee-VEEST). As you may have deduced from that spelling, arriviste means literally “a person who has recently arrived.” The word crossed the English Channel into the language about 1900, and is used today of someone who attains social prominence or a position of power sometimes by unscrupulous means and always without paying the necessary dues.

Both the parvenu and the arriviste are upstarts, but the difference between them is this: The parvenu usually acquires wealth and status by an accident of fate—for example, through an unexpected inheritance, a business windfall or promotion, or by cleaning up at Las Vegas. Once arrived, the parvenu makes an awkward or pretentious attempt to gain social acceptance from the members of the class into which he has risen. The arriviste, on the other hand, is a vulgar and often ruthless social climber who has clawed his way to the top and doesn’t care what anyone thinks or says about it.

  • Word 48: Salubrious [suh-LOO-bree-us]

Healthful, wholesome, favorable or conducive to well-being.


Antonyms of salubrious include insalubrious, deleterious (word 33 of Level 4), pernicious (word 10 of this level), noxious, baneful, malign, and noisome (NOY-sum).

Salubrious, salutary, and wholesome all mean good for your health. Wholesome refers to that which benefits or builds up the body, mind, or spirit, as a wholesome diet, wholesome recreation, or the wholesome effects of building your vocabulary. Salutary (SAL-yuh-TER-ee) refers to that which has, or is intended to have, a corrective or remedial effect upon the health or general condition of someone or something, as salutary advice or a salutary proposal to revitalize the inner city. Salubrious refers to that which is healthful, invigorating, or promotes physical wellbeing, as salubrious air, a salubrious climate, or salubrious exercise.

Both salutary and salubrious come from the Latin salus, health. The noun corresponding to salubrious is salubriousness.

  • Word 49: Hyperbole [hy-PUR-buh-lee]

Exaggeration in speech or writing; especially, extravagant exaggeration that is intentional and obvious.


The corresponding adjective is hyperbolic (HY-pur-BAHL-ik), or, less often, hyperbolical (HY-pur-BAHL-ik-ul).

Occasionally, you will hear an educated speaker who has learned this word from reading, but who has not bothered to check its pronunciation in a dictionary, say hyperbowl. Any sports fan will tell you that there’s a Super Bowl, a Sugar Bowl, a Cotton Bowl, and a Rose Bowl, but there is no Hyper Bowl. The only recognized pronunciation is hy-PUR-buh-lee, and anything else is downright beastly.

Hyperbole comes from a Greek word meaning an excess, something that overshoots the mark. This Greek word comes in turn from a verb meaning to exceed or throw beyond. By derivation, hyperbole is extravagant language that exceeds what is necessary or overshoots the mark.

As Bergen Evans explains in his Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957), “Hyperbole is the term in rhetoric for obvious exaggeration. There is no intent to deceive. The extravagant language is for emphasis only.”

Because hyperbole heightens the effect of what we say without obscuring its meaning, it’s a popular rhetorical device, and many of the most shopworn expressions in the language are hyperbolic. Here are just a few examples of hackneyed hyperbole: I owe you a million thanks; she waited for an eternity; he was eternally grateful; we are forever indebted to you; I am so tired I could sleep for a week; they ran faster than lightning; he’s as strong as an ox; your briefcase weighs a ton; my feet are killing me; he said he’d do it or die trying. These and many more hyperbolic expressions are acceptable in informal speech and excusable in the most casual forms of writing, but in situations that demand more formal and precise expression, or in which an exaggerated effect would be inappropriate, they should be scrupulously avoided.

Not all hyperbole is cliché. There are many memorable statements, withering insults, and powerful speeches that manifest an original, effective, and often striking use of hyperbole. In The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking (1989), Jeff Scott Cook defines hyperbole as “an exaggeration used to emphasize a point,” and offers the following examples, among others:

Former Texas senator, vice-presidential candidate, and secretary of the treasury Lloyd Bentsen once said, “The thrift industry is really in terrible shape. It’s reached the point where if you buy a toaster, you get a free savings and loan.”

Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood, once said, “Those ‘just say no’ [to sex] messages are about as effective at preventing [teen] pregnancy as saying ‘have a nice day’ prevents chronic depression.”

And the actor Robert Redford once quipped hyperbolically, “If you stay in Beverly Hills too long, you become a Mercedes.”

Some of the finest English poetry ever written also makes stunning use of hyperbole. One of Shakespeare’s most glorious and hyperbolic passages occurs in Antony and Cleopatra, when Enobarbus describes the wondrous, irresistible beauty of Cleopatra, who has sailed down the river Cydnus on an opulent barge. Here is a selection from that passage:

The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfum’ed that
The winds were lovesick with them….
The city cast
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthroned i’ th’ marketplace, did sit alone,
Whistling to th’ air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,
And made a gap in nature.

  • Word 50: Sanctimonious [SANGK-ti-MOH-nee-us]

Self-righteous; holier-than-thou; characterized by insincere or affected righteousness, virtuousness, or religious piety.


Sanctimonious comes from the Latin sanctus, holy, sacred, and the word was once used to mean holy or sacred. In modern usage, however, sanctimonious refers to insincere, affected, or hypocritical holiness or righteousness. People who are sanctimonious come off as self-righteous and holier-than-thou but do not practice what they preach.

The corresponding noun is sanctimony (SANGK-tuh-MOH-nee), righteousness or virtuousness that is affected or hypocritical.

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