In 1989, I suffered a head injury (you can read about it here). One of the long-term consequences I’ve dealt with is some minor damage to one of the vocabulary centers of my brain. As a result, I sometimes struggle with word recall and constantly forget words if I do not use them regularly (one of the great ironies of my life is that I’m a writer who can’t think of words). Therefore, I have to work on relearning words perpetually because a strong vocabulary is the foundation for any writer.
For me, the easiest way to study words is with flash cards. I take a standard index card and write the word on one side and the part of speech and definition on the other. Then, I can exercise both learning the definition and recalling the word itself, both of which require diligence on my part because of the injury. You may want to try different techniques to find the right fit for you, but I do recommend trying the flash card method first because it’s simple and effective.
Each Wednesday, I’ll share 20 new words that I think are important for you to know as a writer or are just cool words. If you can learn these entries, by the end of the year you will have improved your vocabulary by 1,040 words. Keep that up for a few years, and you’ll have a world class vocabulary. One note on my word choices, because I have to constantly relearn words, some of these choices may come across as elementary to you, and if so, please accept my apologies. Now, without further ado, here are the first 20:
Abattoir – (n) a slaughterhouse. [origin is from the French word abatt – to slaughter or fell. First appeared in English in the early 1800’s] Usage: The abattoir sat down in a secluded dale, and a peculiar smell clung to it like a drenched cloak, the smell of blood and entrails and death.
Abdicate – (v) renounce or relinquish an office, power, or right. [origin is from the Latin word abdicātus – renounce. First appeared in English in the mid-1500’s] Usage: As his faculties began to decline, the company president decided to abdicate his position in order to protect the company’s best interests.
Acquiesce – (v) to yield; to submit; to agree; to consent. [origin is from the Latin word acquiēscere – to find rest in. First appeared in English in the early 1600’s] Usage: Once he realized that his position was hopeless, the general acquiesced to the terms of surrender rather than needlessly sacrifice his soldiers.
Acrid – (adj) sharp or biting to the taste or smell; pungent; severe. [origin is from the Latin ācr- (stem of ācer) – sharp, sour. First appeared in English in the early 1600’s] Usage: The acrid ale nearly made him gag, but he drank the full tankard, not wanting to offend his host.
Adulate – (v) show feigned devotion to; flatter servilely. [origin is from the Middle English < Middle French < Latin adūlātiōn- (stem of adūlātiō) servile flattery, fawning. First appeared in English in the late 1700’s] Usage: Sycophants will adulate rather than share a hard truth and risk expulsion from the inner circle.
Alacrity – (n) cheerful willingness. [origin is from the Latin word alacritās – lively. First appeared in English in the early 1500’s] Usage: The captain’s alacrity to take on any assignment was contagious to his subalterns.
Anathema – (n) denunciation; solemn curse; something accursed. [origin is Latin and Greek. First appeared in English in the early 1500’s] Usage: As the smoke of battle cleared and she saw the wreckage of bodies, the doctor whispered an anathema at all who saber rattle and call forth the horrors.
Antipathy – (n) dislike for something. [origin is from the Latin word antipathīa and the Greek word antipátheia – aversion. First appeared in English in the late 1500’s ] Usage: Like most night owls, my antipathy for morning and morning people is quite acute.
Apogee – (n) the point of greatest distance from earth in an orbit. [origin is from the French word apogée. First appeared in English in the late 1500’s] Usage: As the satellite reached its apogee, mission control breathed a sigh of relief that all had gone well.
Apoplectic – (adj) of or related to apoplexy (see next entry); angry or furious. [origin is Late Latin apoplēcticus < Greek apoplēktikós pertaining to a (paralytic) stroke. First appeared in English in the early 1600’s] Usage: The combination of poor diet, lack of exercise, and extreme stress had made him the perfect candidate for an apoplectic event.
Apoplexy – (n) loss of consciousness or mobility due to sudden blood loss to the brain; to suffer a stroke. [origin is Late Latin apoplēcticus < Greek apoplēktikós pertaining to a (paralytic) stroke. First appeared in English in the early 1600’s] Usage: The apoplexy left her face paralyzed on the left side, which curled her mouth into a perpetual sneer.
Apotheosis – (n) glorified personification of a principle or idea. [origin is Late Latin and Greek. First appeared in English in the late 1500’s] Usage: Michael Jordan is the apotheosis of a competitor, as his desire to win and be the best has encompassed every facet of his life.
Ardent – (adj) fervent; intense; passionate; burning; fiery; glowing. [origin is Latin. First appeared in English in the mid-1300’s] Usage: She had an ardent desire to create, to push boundaries, to make the world more beautiful than it was yesterday.
Ardor – (n) intensity of feeling; zeal; passion; fiery heat. [origin is from Middle English ardure – to burn. First appeared in English in the mid-1300’s] Usage: As he gazed upon the completed project, his eyes sparkling with delight, his ardor for his work was evident.
Arrogate – (v) assume, demand, or claim unduly [origin is from Latin arrogātus – appropriated, assumed, questioned. First appeared in English in the mid-1500’s] Usage: Our politicians have been arrogating more and more power for themselves for decades, eroding our civil liberties and trampling the Constitution in the process.
Ascetic – (adj) extreme in self-restraint or self-denial [origin is from Greek askētikós – subject to rigorous exercise, hardworking. First appeared in English in the mid-1600’s] Usage: As he trained for his upcoming fight, the boxer lived an ascetic lifestyle, denying himself even the most basic luxuries like air-conditioning.
Ascetic – (n) a hermit; one who practices spiritual self-denial. [origin is from Greek askētikós – subject to rigorous exercise, hardworking. First appeared in English in the mid-1600’s] Usage: The ascetic lived alone, far from the commotion of civilized life, and each day, he reveled in the simplicity of existing.
Asperity – (n) harshness of temper; severity [origin is from late Middle English asperite. First appeared in English in the early 1200’s] Usage: As with most bullies, her asperity could explode at any moment, erupting for even the most trivial of issues.
Assiduous – (adj) diligent; attentive; unremitting [origin is from the Latin word assiduus – to sit near, beside,dwell close to. First appeared in English in the mid-1500’s] Usage: An assiduous attention to detail is imperative for polishing a manuscript into a publishable novel.
Atavism – (n) a reversion to distant hereditary traits; a throwback. [origin is from the Latin word atav – remote ancestor. First appeared in English in the mid-1800’s] Usage: The atavism of his agrarian ancestors shone through as he tilled the soil and wrought sustenance from the land.
Atavistic – (adj) of or pertaining to atavism; reverting to or suggesting characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type. [origin is from the Latin word atav – remote ancestor. First appeared in English in the mid-1800’s] Usage: An atavistic instinct overcame her as she battled the assailant, and a primal rage surged through her as she pummeled him bloody.
Because of the couple of repetitions, you get off easy this week and only have to learn 18 words. Next week, we’ll move beyond the A’s. Happy learning.