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Verbal Advantage – Level 08 Word 11 – Word 20 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 08 Word 11 - Word 20 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 11: Palliate [PAL-ee-AYT]

To lessen the severity of, gloss over, make something seem less serious or severe, as to palliate suffering, to palliate an offense, or to palliate your troubles with drink.


Synonyms of palliate include soften, diminish, mitigate, and extenuate. Antonyms include worsen, intensify, aggravate, and exacerbate (ig-ZAS-ur-BAYT). Exacerbate and acerbic, keyword 7 in this level, come from the same Latin root, and both suggest bitterness or harshness. The adjective acerbic means sour, bitter, or harsh in flavor, tone, or character. The verb exacerbate means to increase in bitterness or severity, as to exacerbate a problem or exacerbate a conflict.

The verb to palliate comes through the Latin verb palliare, to cloak or conceal, from the noun pallium, a cloak. Palliate was once used to mean to cover as if with a cloak, to shelter, hide, conceal. This meaning is now obsolete, and today palliate means to conceal or cloak the seriousness of something, make it appear less severe or offensive than it is, as to palliate a social indiscretion or palliate the enormity of a crime.

In modern usage, palliate often connotes glossing over or disguising the seriousness of something by making excuses or apologies: “Her press agent issued a statement in an attempt to palliate her role in the scandal.”

  • Word 12: Wizened [WIZ-’nd]

Dried up, shriveled, withered, shrunken and wrinkled.


The verbs to wither, to shrivel, and to wizen all imply drying up. Webster’s New World Dictionary, second college edition (1988), explains that wither suggests a loss of natural juices: “The grapes were left to wither on the vine.” Shrivel suggests shrinking and curling as from exposure to intense heat: “With a heavy sigh, Scott removed the shriveled steak from the barbecue.” Wizen (WIZ-’n) suggests shrinking and wrinkling from advanced age or malnutrition.

Although the verb to wizen now is somewhat rare, its past participle, wizened, is still often used of persons or parts of the body to mean shrunken and wrinkled, dried up by age or disease: An old person’s face may be wizened, or someone’s body may be wizened by cancer.

Here is a passage from my vocabulary-building mystery novel, Tooth and Nail, in which the context attempts to illustrate the meaning of wizened: “An ancient, wizened man shuffled into the room, supporting his stooped and shriveled frame with a stout oaken staff…His face was sallow and deeply wrinkled; his cheeks were sunken and his crown was entirely bald. But for his eyes, which twinkled roguishly, he was a picture of death.”

  • Word 13: Captious [KAP-shus]

Faultfinding, quick to point out faults or raise trivial objections.


Synonyms of captious include carping, quibbling, caviling, censorious (sen-SOR-ee-us), and querulous (KWER-uh-lus).

Criticalcarping, and captious all mean “inclined to look for and point out faults and defects,” says Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1993).

Critical, though often used in a negative sense, is in fact a neutral word: the critical person tries to judge something fairly and objectively by weighing its merits and faults. Strictly speaking, a critical assessment is a fair, impartial assessment, and a critical examination may result in a supportive conclusion. Critical is so often used of harsh or unfavorable judgment, however, that the neutral sense of the word has nearly been lost; it would be nice if we took pains to preserve it.

Carping, says Webster’s Ninth, “implies an ill-natured or perverse picking of flaws.” Captious, which comes from the Latin captus, the past participle of the verb capere, to take or seize, “suggests a readiness to detect trivial faults or raise objections on trivial grounds.”

Here’s an idea: The next time you find yourself about to use critical in a negative sense, how about giving carping or captious a try instead?

  • Word 14: Emendation [EE-men-DAY-shin]

A correction, alteration, change made to correct or improve, especially a change made in a piece of writing to correct an error or restore the text to its original state.


The verb to emend (ee-MEND) means to make corrections in a text. Emendation may mean the act of emending, correcting and improving a piece of writing, or it may mean a correction made in a text.

  • Word 15: Truculent [TRUHK-yuh-lint]

Fierce, ferocious, especially in a brutal, bullying, threatening, or aggressively defiant way.


The corresponding noun is truculence (TRUHK-yuh-lints), fierceness, ferocity, brutal aggression.

Synonyms of truculent include pugnacious (puhg-NAY-shus), belligerent, malevolent (muh-LEV-uh-lint), rapacious (ruh-PAY-shus), and feral (FEER-ul).

Antonyms include humane, merciful, compassionate, benevolent (buh-NEV-uh-lint), and clement (KLEM-int), all of which suggest mercy or mildness, and also timid, demure (di-MYOOR), diffident (DIF-uh-dint), apprehensive, and timorous (TIM-ur-us), all of which suggest shyness or fear.

Truculent descends from Latin words meaning savage, fierce, cruel, or grim. In current usage truculent applies to fierce, savage, or ferocious people or to behavior that is brutal, threatening, bullying, or aggressively defiant: A truculent nation is a hostile, belligerent nation. A truculent look is a pugnacious or threatening look. A truculent philosophy of business is a brutal, aggressive, rapacious, winner-takes-all philosophy of business. In his Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957), Bergen Evans offers this sentence to illustrate the meaning of truculent: “One of my superiors was a truculent fellow who would have loved being a storm trooper under Hitler.”

Truculent is now also used of speech or writing to mean scathing, vicious, or vitriolic (VI-tree-AHL-ik), as a truculent retort, a truculent editorial, or a truculent political advertisement.

  • Word 16: Expurgate [EKS-pur-GAYT]

To cleanse by removing offensive material, free from objectionable content.


Synonyms of expurgate include censor, purge, and bowdlerize.

The verbs to expurgate and bowdlerize are close in meaning. (Bowdlerize may be pronounced BOWD-luh-ryz, first syllable rhyming with loud, or BOHD-luh-ryz, first syllable rhyming with towed. Historically the weight of authority favors BOWD-luh-ryz, which I recommend.)

Thomas Bowdler (BOWD-lur) was an English editor who in the early 1800s published expurgated, or cleansed, editions of the Bible and Shakepeare’s works. People did not appreciate Bowdler’s expurgation of the Good Book and the bawdy Bard, so they took his name and made a nasty word: bowdlerize. To bowdlerize is to remove material considered risqué, offensive, or obscene, but it connotes doing so out of a prudish or squeamish sense of morality.

Expurgate comes from the Latin expurgare, to cleanse, purify, and by derivation is related to the verb to purge, to free from impurities, and the adjective pure. To expurgate means to cleanse by removing that which is objectionable.

When something is bowdlerized, that which is considered morally offensive has been deleted. When something is expurgated, that which is considered objectionable for any reason has been deleted. You can bowdlerize Shakespeare by taking out the ribald humor, and you can bowdlerize D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover by removing the passages about sex; but you cannot bowdlerize a textbook because presumably it does not contain anything ribald, erotic, or obscene. However, if people charge that a textbook displays a bias or draws conclusions that they find objectionable, they may attempt to expurgate it, cleanse it by removing the offensive material.

  • Word 17: Reprobate [REP-ruh-BAYT]

Thoroughly bad, wicked, corrupt, morally abandoned, lacking all sense of decency and duty.


Synonyms of reprobate include unprincipled, shameless, base, vile, degenerate, depraved, irredeemable, and incorrigible. Antonyms include virtuous, pure, righteous, honorable, chaste, unsullied, and exemplary.

Reprobate comes from the Latin reprobare, to reprove, disapprove of strongly. In theology, the adjective reprobate means damned, predestined for damnation, and the noun a reprobate means a person rejected by God and excluded from salvation.

In general usage, the noun a reprobate means a corrupt, unprincipled person, a scoundrel, and the adjective reprobate means morally abandoned, bad-to-the-core, lacking all sense of decency and duty.

  • Word 18: Spurious [SPYUUR-ee-us]

False, counterfeit, artificial; not true, authentic, or genuine.


Synonyms of spurious include sham, bogus, phony, fictitious, fabricated, fraudulent, illusory (i-LOO-suh-ree), apocryphal (uhPAHK-ri-ful), and supposititious (suh-PAHZ-i-TISH-us). Antonyms include genuine (there is no wine in genuine; say JEN-yoo-in), authentic, valid, and bona fide (BOH-nuh FYD).

Spurious by derivation means “false, illegitimate.” Spurious was once used to mean of illegitimate birth, bastard, and although dictionaries still list this sense, it is now rare. Since it came into the language about 1600, and most often today, spurious is used to mean false, counterfeit, not authentic or genuine.

Spurious applies to that which is not what it claims or is claimed to be. A spurious document is not authentic or original, and may have been forged; spurious gems are counterfeit, not real or genuine; spurious statements are fabricated, made up; spurious feelings are affected or artificial; and a spurious charge is false, trumped-up, and should be repudiated.

  • Word 19: Volition [voh-LISH-un]

Will, choice, decision, determination.


In Latin, the verb velle means to will or wish, and the word volo means “I will.” From these words comes the English noun volition, which may refer either to the power of using the will or the act of exercising it in making a conscious choice or decision.

“He seems to lack volition” implies that he is weak and unable to make a choice or determination. “She came of her own volition” implies that she exercised her will independently, decided on her own to come.

  • Word 20: Interpolate [in-TUR-puh-LAYT]

To insert, introduce; specifically, to insert words into a piece of writing or a conversation.


The corresponding noun is interpolation, an insertion of words into a piece of writing or a conversation.

The verbs to interpolateinterject (IN-tur-JEKT), and interpose (IN-tur-POHZ) all mean to insert or place between. To interpose suggests the insertion of either a literal or figurative obstacle. You may interpose yourself between two people who are quarreling, or circumstances may interpose an impediment or stumbling block that hinders your progress toward a goal. To interject suggests an abrupt insertion, and usually refers to speech. You interject an opinion, an idea, or a suggestion. To interpolate suggests a deliberate, careful insertion of words into a piece of writing or a conversation. Word-processing programs make it easy to delete or interpolate material and reformat what you have written. Interpolate sometimes suggests altering a text by inserting something spurious, unrelated, or unnecessary: Lawyers may insist on interpolating clauses in a contract, or an author may object to an editor’s interpolation.

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