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Verbal Advantage – Level 10 Word 1 – Word 10 MCQ Test

Verbal Advantage - Level 10 Word 1 - Word 10 MCQ Test

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Word List

  • Word 1: Jejune [ji-JOON]

Dull, uninteresting, or unsatisfying; devoid of nourishment, substance, or significance.


Synonyms of jejune include flat, stale, arid, insipid, and vapid (word 37 of Level 8).

Jejune comes from the Latin jejunus, fasting, hungry, barren, dry. From the same source comes the anatomical term jejunum (jiJOO-num), the middle section of the small intestine, between the duodenum and the ileum. The jejunum took that name, the dictionaries tell us, because in postmortem dissections it was found barren of digestive contents and therefore believed to be empty after death.

The adjective jejune was once used to mean hungry, fasting, without food, but that sense is obsolete and in modern usage jejune is used figuratively to mean barren of interest, dull and unsatisfying, devoid of nourishment, substance, or significance. A jejune diet lacks nourishment; jejune food is tasteless and unsatisfying. A jejune idea or a jejune method lacks appeal because it is devoid of substance or significance. A jejune movie or jejune novel is dull, uninteresting, insipid.

If you look up jejune in a current dictionary, you will also see another definition of the word: youthful, childish, immature, puerile, as jejune behavior or a jejune response to a serious question. Whence comes this sense of the word, which is so clearly unconnected to the root meaning, barren of substance or appeal?

For an answer let’s turn to William Safire, the language maven of The New York Times, who writes a column for that paper’s Sunday magazine called “On Language.” On October 16, 1994, Safire reported that he had queried Jacques Barzun, one of the world’s foremost authorities on English usage, about this extended sense of the word, and the venerable professor responded that “the meaning ‘youthful, childish’ for jejune” had gotten into the dictionaries “only as a concession to the misusers.”

According to Safire, “the original meaning of jejune—‘empty of food, meager’—led to its modern sense of ‘dull, insipid.’ Probably because the word sounded like juvenile, it picked up a meaning of ‘puerile, childish,’ which,” Safire asserts, “is the way it is most commonly used today.” (Yet another example of the insidious sounds-like syndrome at work.)

Safire then poses the eternal question regarding capricious usage: “Should we stand with the prescriptivists, as Barzun suggests, and hold fast to the ‘proper’ meaning? Or do we go along with the language slobs, adopting as ‘correct’ a mistake merely because it is so frequently made?”

Here’s how Safire answers his own question: “At a certain point, what people mean when they use a word becomes its meaning. We should resist its adoption, pointing out the error, for years; mockery helps; if the meaning persists, though, it is senseless to ignore the new sense. I say jejune means puerile now,” Safire concludes.

I disagree with Mr. Safire, and stand with Mr. Barzun on the side of reserving jejune for the meaning “devoid of nourishment, substance, or significance.” That is my crotchet, and I’m proud of it. However, although few people know the word jejune, I will concede that many of those who do now use it to mean childish or immature; and therefore, as Mr. Safire suggests, resistance to this change in meaning may now be effete, and further mockery of it may be jejune—which you may take as meaning either dull, insipid, or juvenile, immature.

Welcome to the war of words, my verbally advantaged friend. What will be your strategy for this controversial word jejune?

  • Word 2: Paucity [PAW-si-tee]

An insufficiency, scarcity, especially a serious or extreme one, a dire lack.


Synonyms of paucity include dearth (word 12 of Level 3), shortage, deficie ncy, and the challenging word exiguity (EK-si-GYOO-i-tee). The noun exiguity and the adjective exiguous (eg-ZIG-yoo-us or ek-SIG-yoo-us) come through the Latin exiguus, small, scanty, from exigere, to measure out, demand. Exiguous means extremely meager or scanty; an exiguity is an extremely small or scanty amount. Exiguity and paucity are close synonyms and are virtually interchangeable.

Paucity comes through the Latin paucitas, fewness, scarcity, from paucus, few. In modern usage, paucity may mean simply a scarcity or insufficiency, as a paucity of words, but it often suggests a serious or extreme insuffiency, a dire lack. We speak of a paucity of supplies; a paucity of information; a paucity of funds; a paucity of natural resources in the region; or a paucity of orders leading to the decision to take a product off the market.

Antonyms of paucity include superabundance, superfluity (SOO-pur-FLOO-i-tee), and plethora (word 19 of Level 6).

  • Word 3: Minatory [MIN-uh-TOR-ee]

Threatening, menacing; having a threatening or menacing aspect or nature.


Minatory and the even more unusual adjective minacious (mi-NAY-shus) are synonymous and may be used interchangeably. Both words come from the same source—the Latin minari, to threaten—and are related to the word menace. Minatory clouds have a threatening aspect, indicating heavy rain or snow. Minatory people are menacing by nature. A minatory look is a menacing look. Minatory words are threatening words.

  • Word 4: Putative [PYOO-tuh-tiv]

Supposed, reputed, commonly considered or regarded as such; deemed to be so but not proved.


Antonyms of putative include certain, definite, unquestionable, indisputable, indubitable, incontrovertible, and irrefragable (i-REF-ruh-guh-buul).

Putative comes from the Latin putare, to consider, believe, think, suppose. That which is putative is commonly thought to be so, generally considered true but not conclusively proved. We speak of someone’s putative parents; the putative perpetrator of a crime; a putative leader or a person with putative authority, meaning the person believed to be in control; and a putative discovery, meaning a discovery generally attributed to someone without proof. We might also speak of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s putative age, the age she is commonly thought to be—but who can say for sure?

  • Word 5: Lucubration [LOO-kyoo-BRAY-shin]

Nocturnal labor; study, writing, or work done late at night.


Lucubration comes from the Latin lucubrare, to work by candlelight. The corresponding adjective, lucubratory (LOO-kyoo-bruh-TOR-ee) means literally done by candlelight; hence, pertaining to nocturnal study or labor. The corresponding verb to lucubrate (LOO-kyoo-BRAYT) means to work, study, or write into the wee hours.

To use a vernacular expression, lucubration means burning the midnight oil. College students often engage in lucubration, and meeting a deadline for an important project may require an eleventh-hour bout of diligent lucubration.

In current usage, the verb to lucubrate may also be used to mean to compose with laborious effort, and especially to write in a scholarly or pedantic fashion, as a professor of political science who lucubrates abstrusely from her ivory tower. The noun lucubration has also come to be used of anything produced by laborious study or effort, especially an elaborate, pedantic, or pretentious piece of writing.

  • Word 6: Troglodyte [TRAHG-luh-DYT]

A cave dweller; also, a person who lives or behaves in a primitive manner, or who lives in seclusion.


The corresponding adjective is troglodytic (TRAHG-luh-DIT-ik), pertaining to or characteristic of a troglodyte.

Troglodyte comes from a Greek word meaning “one who creeps into holes.” In modern usage, troglodyte may be used in three ways. It may refer specifically to a prehistoric cave dweller, as the Neanderthals (nee-AN-dur-TAWLZ) were troglodytes. In a broader sense, troglodyte may refer to anyone who lives in a primitive, degenerate, or debased manner or condition, or who is primitive, brutish, and displays a crude lack of sophistication regarding intellectual or cultural matters: “Simone couldn’t talk to her coworkers about the novels, plays, concerts, and exhibits she enjoyed because all the people she worked with were couch potatoes, soap opera junkies, mall rats, and troglodytes.” Troglodyte may also refer to a person who chooses to live in seclusion, a hermit, recluse. The billionaire Howard Hughes was a notorious—and notoriously eccentric—troglodyte.

Would you like two challenging synonyms for a person who lives in seclusion? Try anchorite (ANGK-uh-RYT) and eremite (ER-uh-MYT).

  • Word 7: Aleatory [AY-lee-uh-TOR-ee]

Depending on luck, chance, or on some contingent event; hence, uncertain, unpredictable.


In law, an aleatory contract is an agreement whose conditions depend on a contingency, an uncertain event. An aleatory sale is one whose completion depends on the outcome of some uncertain event. Aleatory music leaves certain sounds up to the performer or up to chance.

Aleatory comes from the Latin aleator, a gamester, thrower of dice, crapshooter, which comes in turn from alea, a game of dice. Aleatory means literally depending upon the throw of the dice. In current usage, aleatory may mean gambling or pertaining to gambling, as Las Vegas is the mecca of aleatory activity, but the word is probably more often used to mean depending on luck or chance, uncertain, unpredictable. Aleatory investments are risky investments; an aleatory business needs good luck to succeed.

  • Word 8: Farrago [fuh-RAY-goh or fuh-RAH-goh]

A mixture, especially a confused or jumbled mixture.


Synonyms of farrago include conglomeration, medley, mishmash, hodgepodge, miscellany, potpourri, pastiche, and salmagundi.

Farrago comes from a Latin word meaning mixed fodder for animals, a jumbled assortment of grains. In modern usage, farrago may be used literally or figuratively of any mixture, especially a confused, jumbled, or miscellaneous assortment of things: “A computer is an amazing tool for storing or sorting through a farrago of information”; “Every day, the psychiatrist listens to an astonishing farrago of hopes, fears, dreams, wishes, doubts, and resentments.”

The corresponding adjective is farraginous (fuh-RAJ-i-nus), mixed, jumbled, miscellaneous, heterogeneous, as a farraginous collection of notes or ideas.

  • Word 9: Cynosure [SY-nuh-SHUUR]

A center of attention or interest, focal point.


Cynosure comes from the Greek kynosoura, a dog’s tail, from kynos, a dog. From the corresponding Greek adjective, kynikos, we inherit the English adjective cynical, which means literally like a dog.

Pardon me if I digress for a moment, but the words cynical, cynic, and cynicism have an interesting history that I’d like to share with you.

Cynicism was a school of ancient Greek philosophy founded by Antisthenes (an-TIS-thuh-NEEZ) of Athens, a pupil of Socrates. “The chief doctrines of the Cynics,” says the Century Dictionary (1914), “were that virtue is the only good, that the essence of virtue is self-control, and that pleasure is an evil if sought for its own sake. They were accordingly characterized by an ostentatious contempt [for] riches, arts, science, and amusements.”

The most famous exponent of Cynicism was Diogenes (dy-AH-jiNEEZ) of Sinope (si-NOH-pee), who took cynicism to an extreme. In his disdain for human selfishness and his pursuit of a simple life, Diogenes is said to have slept in a tub, thrown away his only utensil, a cup, when he saw a peasant drinking from his hands, and wandered through the streets at midday with a lantern, telling those who asked what he was doing that he was searching for an honest man. According to the third edition of the American Heritage Dictionary (1992), Diogenes is also “said to have performed such actions as barking in public, urinating on the leg of a table, and masturbating on the street.” Apparently as a result of this doglike behavior, Diogenes was nicknamed kynos or kyon, meaning “a dog,” and the nickname was extended to the philosophy of Cynicism and its adherents. Today when we call people cynical, we mean they are scornful or skeptical of people’s motives or that they believe human beings are motivated only by selfishness—in short, that people are dogs.

You will recall that our keyword, cynosure, comes from the Greek kynosoura, a dog’s tail. When spelled with a capital C, cynosure refers to the constellation Ursa Minor or to Polaris, the North Star, also called the polestar, which is part of this constellation. The North Star is the outermost star in the handle of the Little Dipper, which the Greeks apparently perceived as a dog’s tail.

Since ancient times the North Star has been used as a navigational guide. Thus, cynosure first came to mean anything that guides or directs, and then came to mean anything or anyone that is the center of attention or interest, a focal point: “He was the cynosure of the party”; “This issue is the cynosure of the campaign.”

  • Word 10: Badinage [BAD-i-NAHZH or BAD-iNAHZH]

Banter; playful, teasing talk; good-natured joking or gently mocking conversation.


Synonyms of badinage include repartee (REP-ur-TEE), raillery (RAYL-ur-ree), and persiflage (PUR-si-FLAHZH).

The words banter, badinage, persiflage, and raillery all suggest “good-humored jesting,” says Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition (1934). Banter implies light, playful mocking or ridicule; badinage suggests “more trifling and delicate” teasing or jesting; persiflage refers to “frivolous or flippant” talk or writing; and raillery implies playful mockery that is “keener and often more sarcastic.”

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