Important Infrequently Used Words To Know

Paul V. Hartman

                (The Capitalized syllable gets the emphasis)

alacrity       a-LACK-ra-tee
     cheerful willingness and promptness
anathema       a-NATH-a-ma
     a thing or person cursed, banned, or reviled
anodyne        AN-a-dine
     anything that sooths or comforts
aphorism       AFF-oar-ism
     a short, witty saying or concise principle
apostate       ah-POSS-tate       (also:  apostasy)
     person who has left the fold or deserted the faith.
arrogate       ARROW-gate
     to make an unreasonable claim
atavistic      at-a-VIS-tic
     reverting to a primitive type
avuncular      a-VUNC-you-lar
     "like an uncle"; benevolent
bathos         BATH-ose
     an anticlimax
bereft         ba-REFT
     to be deprived of something valuable
     "He was bereft of reason."
calumny        KAL-um-knee
     a slander or false accusation
canard         kan-ARD
     a fabricated story (French="duck"; morte canard=dead duck)

cant      kant
chimera        ki-MEER-ah   (not: chim-er-ah)
     Originally: a mythical beast; any unreal thing; foolish fancy
     (adj=chimerical     ki-MEER-a-cal)
     to grow sick from an abundance of something
comitatus      com-a-TAY-tus
     loyalty to one's band or group
concatenation       con-CAT-a-nation
     things linked together or joined in a chain
     "going just right"

       A favorite word used my father in the 1940s and beyond. Google the word and
       you will get at least five suspected origins. The one among them I prefer is
       from Louisiana French: "couper sètique" which translates as "able to 
       cope with".

cosseted       KOS-a-ted
cupidity       que-PID-a-tee
     greed; avarice
cynosure    SIGH-na-shore      (from the Greek: "dog's tail")
     center of attention; point to which all eyes are drawn.

       (Really? From "dog's tail"? Yes. The "dog's tail" appears in a constellation, 
       locating the North star, which rivets the attention of sailors at sea. Thus: 
       center of attention.)
         (see also: sinecure)

dilettante          DILL-ah-tent
     1. having superficial/amateurish interest in a branch of knowledge;
     2. a connoisseur or lover of the fine arts
discursive          dis-KUR-seive
     covering a wide field of subjects
docent         DOE-cent
     a teacher, but not regular faculty; a museum tour guide
egregious      a-GREE-jous
     conspiculously bad; flagrant; shocking
epigone        EP-a-goan
     a second rate imitator or follower
fatuous        FAT-chew-us
     foolish; stupid; silly
felicity       fa-LISS-a-tee
     bliss; a pleasing aptness in speech and deportment; grace
furtive        FURR-tive
     sly; shifty; secretive
gratuitous          gra-TOO-a-tus
     given freely
haik           HIKE
     a large piece of cloth worn as an outer garment by Arabs.
heuristic      HYOUR-is-tik   (noun)
     an idea or speculation acting as a guide to an investigation
hubris         HUE-bris
     arrogance from excessive pride or passion  (hubristic)
ignominy       IG-na-min-ee     (noun)       (also: ignoble)
     signifying disgrace or dishonour        (ignominious) 
incisive       in-SI-seive
     displaying sharp mental perception; direct and effective
inimical       in-IM-a-cal
     unfriendly; hostile
insipid        in-SIP-id      (adj.)
     Lacking flavor, zest, or interest; dull
insuperable         in-SUPER-a-bul
     not able to be overcome
inveigh        in-VAY
     attack verbally
iterative      IT-ter-a-tive
     something recurring or repeating
     ("An iterative process")
jeremiad       jer-a-MY-add
     a series of doleful, dismal complaints
lagniappe      lan-yap        (noun) (a Creole word)
     something given away as a gift for buying something else;
      (such as an ashtray given for buying a full tank of gas)
leitmotif      LIGHT-moe-teef
     a dominant or recurring theme or pattern
luddite        LUD-ite
     a person who tries to halt progress by smashing machines
manque         mon-KAY
     unfulfilled; frustrated (literally: maimed)
     "He was an artist manque."
maudlin        MAUDE-lin
     easily emotional
mendacious          men-DAY-shous      (adj.)
     untruthful.          (the noun is mendacity)
meretricious        mer-a-TRISH-ous
     deceitful; tawdry

     (Note that the two words above are pejorative, but if the
     meaning is not known, they "sound" meritorious.)

misanthrope         MISS-an-throwp
     a person who dislikes the human race
nugatory       NEW-ga-tory
     trifling; worthless; ineffective
obloquy        OB-la-key
     a public reproach
opprobrium          ah-PROBE-re-um
     disgrace arising from shameful conduct;
     a reproach mingled with contempt
     "That word - a term of opprobrium - cut him like a knife."
paradigm       PEAR-ah-dime
     "side by side"; a pattern or example. A "paradigm shift" is
     usually used to signify a major change in thinking or acting,
     in the sense of employing new examples.
parvenue       PAR-ven-oou
     an upstart; someone trying to rise above their proper place
pejorative     pa-JOUR-a-tive
     tending to be worse; downgrading; disparaging
penury         PEN-your-ee
     extreme poverty
peremptory     per-EM-tory
     a command which may not be refused
perdition      per-DISH-un
     future misery, such as in going to Hell
perfidy        PUR-fa-dee
     treachery; falsehood     (perfidious is the adjective)
perfunctory         pur-FUNK-tory
     done routinely, with little interest or care
peripatetic         PER-ee-pa-TET-ick
     walking about; itinerant  (Often used to describe Aristotle)
philistine     PHIL-a-stine
     a person lacking culture; narrow minded with common tastes
poignant       POIN-yent  An adjective with multiple flavors:
     1: appealing to emotion 2: physically painful 3: sharp, pungent
     4: piercing, incisive   5: astute, pertinent  6: neat, skillful
poltroon       pole-troon
     a thouroughly cowardly person
polymath       polly-math
     a person of great or (more usually) varied learning.
     (poly=much          math=learning)
presentiment        pre-SENT-a-ment
     a foreboding of misfortune
propitiate          pro-PISH-ee-ate
puerile        PURE-ill   (Fr.: "puer" - child)
     juvenile, immature, childish
punctilio      punk-TILL-ee-oh    (noun)
     a fine point of etiquette; precise observance of formalities
     or ceremony; precise to the letter
rancor         RANG-kur
     vindictive malice
rapacity       ra-PASS-a-tee
     act of seizing that which is coveted; greed
recondite      REK-in-dite
     hard to understand; profound; obscure; concealed
regnant        REG-nant
     reigning; predominant; widespread
samizdat       SAM-iz-dot
     an underground newspaper
sanguine       SANG-win
     cheerful, confident
sanguinary     SANG-win-airy

     (note the huge difference in meaning between the above two
     similarly sounding words)

saturnine      SAT-ter-nine
     morose; gloomy
scurrilous          SKER-a-less
     grossly offensive and vulgar
seriatim       sir-ee-AT-um
     occuring one after another; in serial fashion
sinecure       SIN-a-cure
     a job (usually politically appointed) requiring little or no
     (See also: cynosure)
sobriquet      so-bric-KAY
     a nickname or an assumed name ("Minnesota Fats")
solecism       SOL-a-sys-um
     an ungrammatical combination of words
specious       SPEE-shous
     appearing to be right; deceptively good looking
spurious       SPYOUR-ee-ous
sycophant      SICK-oh-fant
     a flattering parasite. sycophancy: excessive or servile flattery.
     short and to the point; pithy
turpitude      TUR-pa-toode
unctuous        UNK-shus
     oily and persuasive
venal          VEE-nal
     a sacrifice of honor for profit
veracity     ver-ASS-a-tee
voracity     vor-ASS-a-tee

     (the above two words are very close in spelling and
     pronunciation, but mean quite different things.)

verisimilitude      ver-ah-SIM-ah-la-tude
     the quality of appearing to be true or real

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