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Verbal Advantage – Level 09 Word 11 – Word 20 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 09 Word 11 - Word 20 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 11: Puissant [PYOO-i-sint or pyoo-IS-int]

Powerful, mighty, strong, forceful.


Synonyms of puissant include vigorous, potent, dynamic, and stalwart (STAWL-wurt). Antonyms include weak, feeble, infirm, debilitated, enervated, flaccid (FLAK-sid, not FLAS-id), and valetudinarian (VAL-i-T(Y)OO-di-NAIR– ee-in).

In the seventeenth-century play The Alchemist, Ben Jonson writes: “I will be puissant, and mighty in my talk to her.”

Puissant comes through Middle English from an Old French word meaning powerful. Because it is used chiefly in old poetry and scholarly disquisitions, current dictionaries sometimes label puissant poetic, literary, or archaic. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid using it. Puissant is a lovely word that if used in the right place at the right time can add flair and a dash of style to your expression. The corresponding noun is puissance (PYOO-isints or pyoo-IS-ints), power, strength, might.

There is also authority for the pronunciation PWIS-int for puissant and PWIS-ints for puissance. But to my ear, these twosyllable variants sound pwissy and are best avoided. You are better off with one of the three-syllable pronunciations sanctioned above, which most modern authorities favor.

  • Word 12: Peculate [PEK-yuh-layt]

To steal, embezzle; specifically, to steal or misuse money or property entrusted to one’s care.


To peculate and to defalcate (de-FAL-kayt) both mean to embezzle, to steal from or appropriate that which has been entrusted to one’s care.

Defalcate by derivation means to cut off with a sickle; hence, to misappropriate funds by fraudulently deducting a portion of them for one’s own use.

Although peculate comes from the Latin peculium, which means “private property,” in current usage the word usually refers to the embezzlement of public or corporate funds, or property entrusted to one’s care: “For twenty-five years old Barney balanced the books for the city, and just when he was about to retire with a good pension they caught him peculating from the public trough.”

The corresponding noun is peculation (PEK-yuh-LAY-shin), the act of peculating.

  • Word 13: Diffident [DIF-i-dint]

Shy, timid, bashful, lacking in self-confidence, hesitant to speak or act.


Diffident comes from the Latin dis-, which in this case means “not,” and fidere, to trust, put confidence in. Diffident was once used literally to mean distrustful, but that sense is archaic, and diffident now suggests lacking trust or confidence in oneself to speak or act. Diffident people have difficulty asserting themselves or expressing their opinions.

  • Word 14: Venal [VEE-nul]

Corruptible, bribable, capable of being bribed or bought off, able to be obtained for a price.


Venal and mercenary (word 14 of Level 2) are close in meaning.

Mercenary means done for payment only, motivated by greed or a desire for personal gain: “A mercenary writer writes not for love but for the money”; “When Jim discovered that Alice had three exhusbands who were all affluent plastic surgeons like him, he concluded that her interest in him was mercenary and called off their engagement.”

Venal comes from the Latin venalis, for sale, and means literally able to be sold. The word is used today to mean able to be bribed, corrupted, or bought off, or characterized by corrupt, mercenary dealings. A venal judge is corrupt, capable of being bribed; a venal politician is corruptible, able to be influenced by money or favors; a venal administration or a venal business deal is riddled with corruption and bribery.

The corresponding noun is venality (vee-NAL-i-tee), a venal state or act.

Venal and venial are often confused. Venial (VEE-nee-ul, three syllables) comes from the Latin venia, grace, indulgence, and means excusable, forgivable, minor, as a venial sin, a venial offense, or a venial error. Venal (VEE-nul, two syllables) means corruptible, capable of being bribed or bought off.

  • Word 15: Parsimonious [PAHR-si-MOH-nee-us]

Stingy, miserly, extremely tight with money.


Antonyms of parsimonious include generous, liberal, open-handed, bountiful, beneficent (buh-NEF-i-sint), magnanimous (mag-NAN-imus, word 24 of Level 7), and munificent (discussed in word 9 of this level).

Synonyms of parsimonious include grasping, money-grubbing, penny-pinching, close-fisted (KLOHS- as in close, near), penurious (puh-NYUUR-ee-us), and niggardly (NIG-urd-lee).

Please note that niggard (NIG-urd) and niggardly are very old words of Scandinavian origin; other than an unfortunate resemblance in sound, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the offensive and derogatory term used by racists to insult African-Americans. A niggard is a miser; niggardly means stingy, begrudging every nickel and dime.

The noun parsimony (PAHR-si-MOH-nee) means excessive or unnecessary economy or frugality. The adjective parsimonious means very sparing in expenditure, frugal to excess. The eighteenth-century English essayist Joseph Addison wrote, “Extraordinary funds for one campaign may spare us the expense of many years, whereas a long parsimonious war will drain us of more men and money.”

If you’ve ever known someone who wanted you to do a demanding job and grudgingly offered to pay you half of what it was worth, and not a penny more, then you know well what parsimonious means.

  • Word 16: Pusillanimous [PYOO-si-LAN-i-mus]

Cowardly, lacking courage, timid, fainthearted, irresolute.


Pusillanimous is used of cowardly persons or actions that are especially ignoble or contemptible: a pusillanimous deserter of a cause; a pusillanimous surrender; a mean-spirited and pusillanimous leader. The corresponding noun is pusillanimity (PYOO-suh-luh-NIM-i-tee).

  • Word 17: Extant [EKS-tint, rhymes with sextant, ant as in relevant]

Existing, still in existence, not extinct, not lost or destroyed.


Extant comes from the Latin exstare, to stand out, which comes in turn from ex-, meaning “out,” and stare, to stand. Extant originally meant standing out, but this sense is now archaic, and in modern usage extant means standing out through time, still in existence, not lost or destroyed: “That law is no longer extant; it’s not on the books”; “She was surprised and pleased to find several extant relatives in the village where she was born”; “The only extant writings by this early Greek philosopher may in fact be apocryphal”; “Although Shakespeare’s plays have been performed and enjoyed for more than four hundred years, nothing in his handwriting has survived—not one extant manuscript.”

  • Word 18: Meretricious [MER-uh-TRISH-us]

Tawdry, gaudy; attractive in a flashy or cheap way; falsely alluring; deceptively enticing.


By derivation, meretricious means pertaining to or like a meretrix (MER-uh-triks), a prostitute. This unusual meretrix comes directly from Latin and has been in the language for nearly five hundred years, but it is so rare today that you won’t find it listed in most dictionaries.

Meretricious is still sometimes used in its literal sense, but most often the word refers to someone or something that has the gaudy appearance or tawdry qualities of a prostitute, especially in a false or deceptive way.

Meretricious eyes are falsely alluring; a meretricious idea is deceptively attractive; a meretricious style is cheap, flashy, and insincere.

Meretricious and meritorious (MER-uh-TOR-ee-us) are often confused, but they are nearly opposite in meaning. Meritorious means worthy of merit, deserving praise; a meritorious action is a commendable action. Meretricious actions are falsely alluring, superficially attractive, flashy but insincere.

  • Word 19: Xenophobia [ZEN-uh-FOH-bee-uh]

Fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, or of anything strange or foreign: “Their xenophobia and temerity led them headlong into war.”


Xenophobia entered English at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its antonym, xenomania (ZEN-uh-MAY-nee-uh), an inordinate attachment to anything or anyone foreign, was coined thirty years earlier but is rarely used today. However, xenophilia (ZEN-uh-FIL-ee-uh), which came into the language in the 1950s, is still in good standing; xenophilia means love for or attraction to foreigners, foreign cultures, or foreign customs.

Xenophobia combines the prefix xeno-, which means alien, strange, with the suffix -phobia, which means fear. By derivation, xenophobia is fear of anyone or anything alien or strange. A xenophobe is a person who fears or hates strangers: “An exclusive community filled with vigilant xenophobes who fear any unfamiliar face.” The adjective xenophobic means affected with xenophobia: “During times of national crisis, people have a tendency to become hostile and xenophobic.”

Many educated speakers—and for some reason, especially the highly educated ones—pronounce xenophobiaxenophobe, and xenophobic with a long e: ZEE-nophobia, ZEE-nophobe, and ZEE-nophobic. These pronunciations were not recognized by dictionaries until the 1980s, and although all current dictionaries now list them, not one lists them first.

So take my advice and ignore those overeducated, innovative mispronouncers, who are probably foreign spies. Take a Zen approach and pronounce these words with a short e. Say ZEN-ophobia, ZEN-ophobe, and ZEN-ophobic.

  • Word 20: Quotidian [kwoh-TID-ee-in]

Daily, recurring every day or pertaining to every day, as a quotidian ritual; a quotidian record of events; a quotidian update or report; the quotidian call to order.


Quotidiandaily, and diurnal (dy-UR-nul, from the Latin diurnus, of the day, word 49 of Level 2) are synonyms.

Quotidian comes from the Latin quotidianus, daily, of every day. Because something that recurs daily soon becomes routine and ordinary, quotidian has also come to mean of an everyday nature, and therefore ordinary, commonplace, trivial: “The first presentation was eloquent, but the second was dull and quotidian.” “As he walked he heard the quotidian clamor of the marketplace, where money is forever changing hands.”

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