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Verbal Advantage – Level 08 Word 21 – Word 30 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 08 Word 21 - Word 30 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 21: Adduce [uh-D(Y)OOS]

To offer or cite as a reason, as evidence, or as authority for an opinion or course of action.


By derivation adduce means to bring forward. In modern usage, adduce means to bring forward or cite something as a reason, as an example, or as proof in a discussion, analysis, or argument. Lawyers adduce evidence to bolster their case. Politicians adduce facts to justify their position on an issue. Scholars and scientists adduce the results of their research to prove their theories. In writing a report proposing a new marketing plan for a company, an executive might adduce examples of similar marketing strategies that worked for other companies.

  • Word 22: Miscreant [MIS-kree-int]

An evil, unscrupulous, vicious person; someone without principles or conscience; a villain, criminal.


Because the world contains so many evil, unscrupulous, vicious people, the language abounds with synonyms for the noun miscreant, including but not limited to scoundrel, rascal, rogue, hoodlum (HUUD-lum or HOOD-lum), hooligan (HOO-li-gun), ne’erdo-well, varlet, rapscallion, blackguard (BLAG-urd or BLAG-ahrd), desperado, scapegrace (SKAYP-grays), scofflaw (SKAHF-law), malefactor (MAL-uh-FAK-tur), and reprobate, word 17 of this level.

Miscreant, which entered English in the fourteenth century, comes through Old French from Latin, and combines the prefix mis-, which means “bad” or “not,” with the Latin credere, to believe. By derivation a miscreant is someone who does not believe.

For several centuries the word was used to mean a heretic, a person who rejects or flouts religious principles, but this sense is now archaic and since at least the time of Shakespeare miscreant has been used to mean a morally bad person, a vile wretch, detestable scoundrel. The adjective miscreant, pronounced the same way, means villainous, evil, destitute of conscience.

  • Word 23: Quixotic [kwik-SAHT-ik]

Foolishly impractical or idealistic, especially in an extravagantly chivalrous or romantic way; inclined to pursue lofty, unreachable goals or far-fetched, unworkable schemes.


Synonyms of quixotic include fanciful, whimsical, visionary, utopian, impracticable (im-PRAK-ti-kuh-buul, five syllables please), and chimerical (ki-MER-i-kul). Antonyms include realistic, practical, pragmatic, and utilitarian.

Quixotic comes from Don Quixote (kee-HOH-tee), the hero and title of a seventeenth-century satirical romance by Miguel de Cervantes (sair-VAHN-tays). Don Quixote is an old man passionately devoted to the ideals of chivalry—fighting evil and rescuing the oppressed. The Don does not realize that his code of honor has become outworn and been replaced with far less lofty, mercenary goals. With his credulous but pragmatic squire, Sancho Panza (English: SAN-choh PAN-zuh; Spanish: SAHN-choh PAHNsah), he sets forth on a quest to save the world from wickedness. The world, however, holds only ridicule for the visionary Don, who winds up tilting at windmills and making speeches to the wind.

Today the adjective quixotic refers to a person who is extravagantly idealistic or romantic, like Don Quixote, or to an idea or goal that is so impractical and far-fetched as to seem foolish.

  • Word 24: Suppurate [SUHP-yuh-RAYT]

To fester, form or discharge pus.


This unusual word applies to wounds, boils, ulcers, or other lesions that become infected and discharge pus. (By the way, lesion, pronounced LEE-zhun, means a wound, injury, infection, or harmful change in some part of the body.)

When a lesion suppurates, discharges pus, it is called suppuration; and suppuration, if untreated or unchecked, may lead to a state of putrefaction (PYOO-truh-FAK-shin). The verb to putrefy (PYOO-truh-fy) means to rot or decay; the adjective putrid (PYOO-trid) means rotten, foul-smelling, fetid; and the noun putrefaction means rotting, decomposition, foul-smelling decay.

Okay, you can stop holding your nose now because this suppurating, putrid lesson is over and we’re moving on to…

  • Word 25: Martinet [MAHR-ti-NET]

A strict disciplinarian, taskmaster, rigid enforcer of rules and regulations.


Martinet comes from General Jean Martinet, a seventeenthcentury French drillmaster who became legendary for subjecting his troops to harsh discipline and for his rigid adherence to military rules and regulations. In modern usage, martinet may refer to a strict military disciplinarian, or more generally to any rigid, authoritarian enforcer of rules and regulations.

  • Word 26: Compunction [kum-PUHNGK-shin]

A twinge of regret caused by an uneasy conscience; a pang of guilt for a wrong done or for pain that one has caused another.


Synonyms of compunction include remorse, misgiving, scruple, and qualm (KWAHM, the l is silent). A stronger synonym is contrition, word 9 of Level 5, which means repentance, deep and devastating sorrow for one’s sins or for something one has done wrong.

Compunction comes through the Late Latin compunctio, a pricking of conscience, ultimately from the Latin verb pungere, to prick, sting, pierce, or stab. The Latin pungere is also the source of the English words puncture, meaning to prick, pierce, or stab; pungent, which means piercing or stinging to the smell or taste, as a pungent aroma; and poignant (POYN-yint), which means piercing or penetrating to the senses, the emotions, or the intellect.

When you feel the prick or sting of conscience or a twinge of regret for something you have done wrong, or when you feel a pang of guilt for causing pain to another person, that is a compunction: “After a year, Ned still had compunctions about ending his relationship with Suzy.” If your conscience is clear and you have no regrets, you lack compunction: “Vanessa grew sick and tired of working for a martinet, and when she finally decided the time was right to quit her job, she did so without compunction.”

  • Word 27: Mercurial [mur-KYUUR-ee-ul]

Quick to change moods or change one’s mind, having an unpredictable temperament.


Synonyms of mercurial include flighty, impulsive, fickle, capricious (which properly rhymes with delicious; it’s word 11 of Level 1), volatile (word 47 of Level 4), erratic, and protean (PROH-tee-in).

Antonyms include stable, fixed, steadfast, invariable, and immutable.

Does anything about the word mercurial sound familiar? Can you guess its derivation? If you’re thinking that mercurial is related to the word mercury, then you are a sagacious person, both in the current sense of wise, shrewd, perceptive, and in the obsolete sense of quick in picking up a scent—in this case, an etymological scent.

The ancient Roman god Mercury, known to the Greeks as Hermes (HUR-meez), was the messenger or courier of the gods, but he had many other responsibilities as well. He was the deity (DEE-i-tee) who conducted the souls of the dead to the underworld, and also the god of commerce, travel, eloquence, and thievery. (Those ancient Greeks and Romans covered all the bases, didn’t they?)

Mercury is usually depicted wearing a winged helmet and winged sandals to show his fleet-footedness, and as Hermes he also carried a winged staff with two serpents coiled around it. That staff, which now serves as the symbol of the medical profession, is called a caduceus (kuh-D(Y)OO-see-us).

I’m sure that doctors today view the caduceus as a symbol of their devotion to providing swift, efficient health care, but I must confess I find it nothing short of hilarious that the medical profession has chosen a symbol from an ancient god who governed commerce, travel, eloquence, and thievery, and who escorted the dead to their final resting place.

Because of the various hats worn by the god Mercury, the adjective mercurial has been used to mean everything from swift, quick-witted, and eloquent to shrewd, clever, and thieving. Dictionaries still list these words under the definition “having the characteristics attributed to the god Mercury,” but in current usage the word most often is used to mean like the element mercury, which is also called quicksilver. As you know, mercury is used in thermometers, and it is highly reponsive to changes in temperature. Like the mercury in a thermometer, that which is mercurial is changeable, fickle, or capricious. The mercurial person has an unpredictable temperament and is quick to change moods.

  • Word 28: Nostrum [NAHS-trum]

A quack remedy or medicine; a panacea; hence, a dubious or dishonest plan or scheme for curing a social or political problem.


Nostrum comes from the Latin noster, which means “our.” In days of yore, the charlatan and the mountebank—two unsavory types that I discussed in word 17 of Level 4—would sell their panacea or cure-all by calling it a nostrum, meaning literally “our remedy.” As a result, the word nostrum came to mean a medicine whose ingredients are kept secret and whose preparer makes exaggerated claims about its effectiveness, which has not been proved.

That definition is still in good standing, as a trip to any healthfood store will prove. Because quack remedies can be applied not only to the ills of the body but also to the ills of the body politic, in modern usage nostrum has also come to mean a dubious or dishonest plan or scheme for curing a social or political problem. Throughout society today, from the bars to the talk shows to the hallowed halls of government, you can hear quacks, eccentrics, and downright weirdos proposing their nostrums for the ills of the world.

  • Word 29: Propitiate [pruh-or proh-PISH-ee-ayt]

To appease, gain or regain the goodwill or favor of, cause to become favorably inclined.


Synonyms of propitiate include conciliate, pacify, mollify, placate, and assuage (word 37 of Level 2). Antonyms include alienate, offend, antagonize, estrange, and disaffect.

The corresponding noun is propitiation, appeasement, conciliation, the act of getting into the good graces of.

The verb to propitiate comes from Latin and means literally to soothe, appease, render favorable. From the same source comes the adjective propitious (pruh-PISH-us), which refers to favorable conditions or a favorable time for doing something, as a propitious time for buyers in the real estate market.

In modern usage, to propitiate means to cause to become favorably inclined, to win the goodwill of someone or something despite opposition or hostility. Typically, you propitiate a higher power, such as your boss, your parents, the Internal Revenue Service, or your god.

  • Word 30: Efficacy [EF-i-kuh-see]

Effectiveness; the power to produce a desired effect or result.


Efficacy applies to things that have the power to produce an intended effect. We speak of the efficacy of a drug, a scientific method, or an advertising campaign. The corresponding adjective is efficacious (EF-i-KAY-shus), which means effective, capable of producing a desired effect or result, as an efficacious law, an efficacious policy, or an efficacious marketing plan.

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