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50 Words You Probably Don't Know

Richard gets carried away with words when he isn't writing his novel, pondering human nature, or gardening, and sometimes even then.

Learning has no limits.

Learning has no limits.

Some Roman History May Have Seeped In

Generally, this word list came from the process of culling interesting words from broad reading, but we note the preponderance of words relating to ancient Rome. We counted on not everyone having read about ancient Rome. If you have, then you do have an advantage on the quiz.

  1. Anent: preposition əˈnɛnt describes what is lying against or alongside.
  2. Brobdingnagian: adjective brŏb′dĭng-năg′ē-ən means huge. It comes from Gulliver’s Travels.
  3. Cognominated: vb (tr) kəɡˈnɒmɪnɪt is to give a nickname to.
  4. Cognomen: noun kŏg-nō′mən is a family name or surname or nickname of long standing.
  5. Combi: adjective kɒmbɪ denoting a machine that has two or more uses or functions.
  6. Conterminous: adjective kən-tûr′mə-nəs means having a boundary in common.
  7. Curule: adjective kyo͝or′o͞ol′ means of superior rank.
  8. Decury: noun ˈdɛkjʊərɪ is a body of ten men.
  9. Discursive: adjective dĭ-skûr′sĭv means proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition.
  10. Edile: noun ˈiːdaɪl is a magistrate of Ancient Rome who had charge over public lands.
  11. Elide: transitive verb ĭ-līd′ is to omit or slur over a syllable in pronunciation.
  12. Etui: noun ā-twē′ is a small, usually ornamental case for holding articles such as needles.
  13. Gustation: noun gŭ-stā′shən is the faculty of distinguishing sweet, sour, bitter, and salty properties in the mouth.
  14. Ichor: noun ī′kôr′ a watery, acrid discharge from a wound or ulcer.
  15. Imam: noun ĭ-mäm′ is a male prayer leader in a mosque.
  16. Instauration: noun ĭn′stô-rā′shən means renovation.
  17. Jiao: noun dʒaʊ is a unit of currency in the People's Republic of China equal to one-tenth of a Renminbi or Yuan.
  18. Kalends: noun ˈkæl əndz is the first day of the month in the ancient Roman calendar.
  19. Legates: noun lĕg′ĭt is an official emissary, especially an official representative of the pope.
  20. Legerity: noun lə-jĕr′ĭ-tē alert, facile quickness or agility of mind or body.
  21. Lictor: noun lĭk′tər is a Roman functionary who carried fasces when attending a magistrate in public appearances.
  22. Maieutic: adjective may-YOO-tik means relating to or resembling the Socratic method of eliciting new ideas from another.
  23. Maquillage: noun mä′kē-äzh′ is cosmetic or theatrical makeup.
  24. Marmoreal: adjective mär-môr′ē-əl means pertaining to, made of, or resembling marble.
  25. Numinous: adjective no͞o′mə-nəs means of or relating to a numen; supernatural.
  26. Orphic: adjective OR-fik means mystic, oracular.
  27. Pachuco: noun pə-cho͞o′kō is a Mexican-American man or boy who dresses in flamboyant clothes and is often one who belongs to a neighborhood gang.
  28. Parhelion: noun pär-hē′lē-ən is a bright spot sometimes appearing at either side of the sun, often on a luminous ring or halo, caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight by ice crystals suspended in the earth's atmosphere.
  29. Parvenu: noun ˈpɑːvəˌnju is one who has suddenly attained wealth or position beyond his birth or worth.
  30. Peregrinations: verb pĕr′ĭ-grə-nāt′ is to journey or travel from place to place, especially on foot.
  31. Peristyle: noun pĕr′ĭ-stīl′ is a series of columns surrounding a building or enclosing a court.
  32. Piacular: adjective pī-ăk′yə-lər is making expiation or atonement for a sacrilege such as a piacular sacrifice.
  33. Porphyry: noun pôr′fə-rē is any of various varieties of reddish-purple rock, often containing light-colored crystals, used as a decorative stone.
  34. Proquaestor: noun pro·quaes·tor is one acting for a quaestor, especially a magistrate associated with a proconsul in the administration of an ancient Roman province.
  35. Punctilious: adjective pŭngk-tĭl′ē-əs refers to one strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct.
  36. Quaestor: noun quaes·tor is one of numerous ancient Roman officials concerned chiefly with financial administration.
  37. Quai: noun kē is a wharf or reinforced bank for the loading or unloading of ships or boats.
  38. Rapacious: adjective rə-pā′shəs means being greed and having or showing a strong or excessive desire to acquire money or possess things.
  39. Senescent: adjective sĭ-nĕs′ənt means growing old or aging.
  40. Shibboleth: noun shĭb′ə-lĭth is a custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider.
  41. Solecism: noun sŏl′ĭ-sĭz′əm is a nonstandard usage or grammatical construction.
  42. Spondee: noun spŏn′dē′ is a metrical foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables.
  43. Stentorian: adjective stĕn-tôr′ē-ən means extremely loud.
  44. Tergiversate: verb tər-jĭv′ər-sāt′ means to use evasions or ambiguities.
  45. Termagant: noun tûr′mə-gənt is a woman regarded as quarrelsome or scolding or a shrew.
  46. Tesselate: transitive verb tĕs′ə-lāt′ means to form into a mosaic pattern, as by using small squares of stone or glass.
  47. Threnody: noun thrĕn′ə-dē is a poem or song of mourning or lamentation for the dead.
  48. Unctuous: adjective ŭngk′cho͞o-əs is excessively ingratiating or insincerely earnest.
  49. Uraeus: noun yo͝o-rē′əs is the figure of the sacred serpent, an emblem of sovereignty depicted on the headdress of ancient Egyptian rulers and deities.
  50. Zoomorphic: adjective zoh-uh-MOR-fik means having the form of an animal.

Why Words

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Mnemonic Devices to Remember Vocabulary

We suggest you add defining sentences to your word flashcards. Here are a few examples to get you started.

1. My brother-in-law lies anent with many partners.

2. Our President likes to say things are Brobdingnagian, but his hands are not.

3. I was cognominated by my team when I missed the tie-breaking play, but I can't tell you what they called me.

4. They have been using my cognomen against me because my family is infamous.

5. My cousin loves her combi washer/dryer as much as she loves her two-in-one shampoo/cream rinse.

6. My yard is conterminous with the neighbors' pond.

7. The disgraced former governor is our most curule neighbor.

8. A decury of men was sent because ten men were needed for the task.

9. Smart people often arrive at discursive conclusions because they are able to reason intellectually.

10. When we lived in ancient Rome, our local edile was most helpful to us in determining the boundaries between our villa and public land.

11. Here in the south, we like to elide as many -ing endings as possible, so we say -in in it's place.

12. My dress has a matching etui that I can carry with me to keep my lipstick, license, and phone in.

13. My husband's gustation is so accurate that he can list the ingredients in the food he eats even though he didn’t cook it.

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

— Alan W. Watts

Make it Stick

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown, et. al. is a must-read for everyone in our audience, especially those of us who are lifelong learners. We have condensed a few pieces of Brown's best advice here for use with learning and recalling the dastardly and doubly difficult vocabulary list.

Spaced practice

Brown writes that spaced practice is more effective than rote memorization carried out all in one lengthy session. Continued periodic review is the best way to learn. So, bookmark this page when you are done reading and quizzing. When enough time has passed that you think you have forgotten the new words, come back and read the list and definitions again, and re-take the quiz after a few weeks. Brown explains that “retrieval itself creates greater retention” because “the act of retrieving a memory {changes the memory, making it easier to retrieve again later” (Brown 41).

Old-timey flashcards

Yes! We love them, and knew they were especially useful, and now an expert on learning agrees with us! Another salient point Brown makes is that quizzing doesn’t need to be initiated by a teacher, but can become a routine part of anyone’s self-study. Brown says, “Think flashcards—the way second graders learn the multiplication tables can work just as well for learners of any age,” (44).

If you are committed to increasing your vocabulary, break out the note cards and build yourself some flashcards. Use color, images, or even stickers to create a memorable flashcard. The more vivid the card, the more you will recall what it says. The beautiful part about flashcards is that no one can do it wrong.

We promise.

We promise.

Heinous Quiz, as Promised

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. An edile was the forerunner of a bibliophile.
    • False
    • True
  2. Who carries fasces?
    • Lictors
    • Ichors
  3. If you were nicknamed, then you have a
    • cognomen.
    • have been cognominated.
  4. A combi is
    • a combination of kitchen appliances.
    • A combi is another wacky Australian food innovation involving shrimp.
  5. A numinous cloud portends rain.
    • False
    • True
  6. An orphic man has the ability to
    • change his shape.
    • work as an oracle.
  7. Parhelions are numinous, according to Hoyle.
    • False
    • True, sometimes.
  8. Maieutic ailments are usually accompanied by ichor and peregrinations.
    • False
    • "Maieutic ailment" is a euphemism for all STDs.
  9. The decury announces all news in ancient Rome.
    • False
    • True
  10. Weird people are considered piacular by others.
    • True
    • False
  11. A punctilious person would notice if any porphyry was missing or unappealing.
    • True
    • False
  12. A person who could use a spondee properly would not know what a solecism sounds like.
    • True
    • False
  13. Is an unctuous person generally honest and kind?
    • No
    • Yes

Answer Key

  1. False
  2. Lictors
  3. have been cognominated.
  4. a combination of kitchen appliances.
  5. False
  6. work as an oracle.
  7. False
  8. "Maieutic ailment" is a euphemism for all STDs.
  9. False
  10. False
  11. True
  12. False
  13. No

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 3 correct answers: Do you currently have a heartbeat and functioning eyes? You didn't get too many answers right. In fact, random chance would have given you a higher score. Close your eyes next time and just guess. Keep reading, please.

If you got between 4 and 7 correct answers: OMG! Do you speak any English? Spanish? Any language experience at all? Please, please read more! We beg you to look at the wondrous worlds inside books and words, please! Don't miss out! You have never been as far as a book can take you!

If you got between 8 and 10 correct answers: Your score on this quiz gives us a sneaky suspicion you like to read and may have Word Weirdo tendencies you are unable to control. We greet you as one of our own kind and invite you to take more of our diabolical and unfair quizzes.

If you got 11 correct answers: Your score on this quiz strongly indicates you are a Word Weirdo, and now you have been found out. You would like to pretend that you know very little, but you keep doing well on these quizzes. . ..

If you got between 12 and 13 correct answers: Give it up! You are a reader or a writer, and your excellent score has outed you! Designation: Word Weirdo, level 1. You are also a little mad because you caught the ringers thrown into the quiz. We invite you to look for more in our other quizzes.

Value of Vocabulary

25 Unique Words to Add to Your Vocabulary

Works Cited

Albert C. Baugh, Cable, Thomas. A History of the English Language. London: Routledge, 2017. Print.

Brown, Peter. Roediger, Henry L. III, McDaniel, Mark A. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge: U of Harvard Press, 2014. Book. 15 September 2017. Web site. 15 September 2017.

English, Pnt. "English Vocabulary Words With Meaning." 2017. YouTube. Website Video Presentation. 25 December 2017.

Harris, Muriel. Prentice Hall Reference Guide. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2017. Print. 15 September 2017. Website. 15 September 2017.

Pewitt, Miles. "Advanced High School and College Vocabulary Development." 2012. Website Video Presentation. 25 December 2017. 6 september 2017. Website. 6 september 2017.

Webster's New World Dictionary. New York: Warner, 2016. Print. 15 September 2017. Website. 15 September 2017.

Every Chance You Get

As always, we have enjoyed writing this article for your edification and entertainment. Come and see us for more information about writing every chance you get. We'll leave the site on for ya.


Richard Green (author) from New Mexico on March 18, 2019:

I am so happy to read that the article helps with homework as that is my bailiwick. You can never know too many words! Keep on studying.

shayne on March 11, 2019:

helps me with my home work!!