Magoosh issue1 practice test writing

Technology, while apparently aimed to simplify our lives, only makes our lives more complicated.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


I see it is completely the way we interact and use the technology will benefit or make the life complicated than ever. We are having the luxury to enjoy the global news and infomation that are necessary to keep our body and soul together is just due to the fact of easily accessibility of the technology. As we go further the life of people around the globe have been drastically improved due to the contribution of technology in individuals life. We see that poverty level in around the globe has declined than ever recoreded before and this is only with technology as people have started selling their hand-made products on Facebook by creating pages. People that were not that skiled are making money by seling their vegetables on faceboook.Thereby, increasing overall prosperity of their kind and have led their childrens in good school that were not the case before, they are having good night sleep and meal to be good healthwise. At the same time some people are just wasting their time hanging with facebook and chating with their friends and that have reduced their perfomance in their study and a competent contributor of this world are being incompetent, wasting time on facebook and getting involved into libertine activities may be instigated by one of his or her friend. Another thing is we can of course do whatever we want with the technology, chance of thriving as a resposible people and irresponsibe people are amost 50-50. We see in the most of the cases by using computer even construction of building and roads are crafted and at the same time one can simulate a atomic bomb to dispel the existence of the humanity. One is going towards something to make this world a better place to live while another one is in its destruction. This school of thought has made a lot to worry the way people are using computer. So individual intesion matters a lot in case making life better or making complicated than ever. Even when we see in case of voting system that employed to make the life of human easier and we see being misused it in different ways — hacking into system, one of the vivid example is reportedly told Russis interference in the USA election. Actually technologies are to make the life easier but it is upto the way it is used, can be fruitful and catestrophic at the same time.

This essay has only 407 word count that needs to be increased for the writing section in toefl to 450 to 500 word count to get a perfect score, 27-30/30, in the writing section.








If you have the freedom to decide something on your own, the decision is left to your discretion. You’re in charge.

Discretion traces back to the Latin verb discernere “to separate, to discern” from the prefix dis- “off, away” plus cernere “separate, sift.” If you use discretion, you sift away what is not desirable, keeping only the good. If you have the freedom to choose, something is “at your discretion.” Watch out when you hear the phrase, “viewer discretion advised” on TV or at the movies, you will be watching something quite violent or explicitly sexual.

PS: “viewers discretion advised”


A dissertation is a long piece of writing that uses research to bring to light an original idea. Don’t go to grad school unless you’re prepared to write, say, a 300-page dissertation on some topic.

In everyday speech, we sometimes accuse people of delivering dissertations when they overload us with dull information. If you’re annoyed with a long memo from your office manager about keeping the kitchen clean, you could mutter to a coworker, “How’d you like that dissertation Felix posted about rinsing out our mugs?”



sift:nv: sift is used in case of discretion.

To bake a cake, you sift the flour to get out the lumps. When you sift, you separate out one thing from another.

When you sort through the mail looking for the bills or go through your photos to find that shot of your dog, that’s sifting, too. Detectives sift through piles of evidence when investigating crimes, and you might sift through the hundred applications you get from drummers eager to join your band, to find Ms. Right. When you’re at the beach, you can sift sand through your fingers, and you might see big machines that sift the sand to clean it.

moot:nv: debatable, consider

When a point is moot, it’s too trivial to think about. If your basketball team loses by 40 points, the bad call by the official in the first quarter is moot: it isn’t important.

Though moot can mean to debate endlessly without any clear decision or to think about something carefully, it most often describes ideas and arguments that don’t really matter. If your plane is crashing, whether or not your socks match is a moot point. When someone accuses you of making a moot point, he’s basically saying, “Come on! Let’s talk about what’s important.” As with so many things, people don’t always agree on what’s moot and what’s not.

retroactive:adj: retrospective

The adjective retroactive refers to something happening now that affects the past. For example, a retroactive tax is one that is passed at one time, but payable back to a time before the tax was passed.

The Latin word retroagere, an ancestor of the adjective retroactive, means “drive or turn back,” and goes along with the meaning of the word. Sometimes governments pass rulings that are set as if they were in effect before the ruling was even made, and that means they are retroactive. On the bright side, you might be awarded a salary raise that is retroactive, meaning you’ll get paid more for work you did in the past. And, retroactive fads in clothing keep vintage clothing stores in business.

meander:nv: sinuous, wander

To meander means to wander aimlessly on a winding roundabout course. If you want some time to yourself after school, you might meander home, taking the time to window shop and look around.

Meander comes from a river in modern-day Turkey, the Maiandros, which winds and wanders on its course. Today, a stream or a path meanders, as does a person who walks somewhere in a roundabout fashion. If your speech meanders, you don’t keep to the point. It’s hard to understand what your teacher is trying to impart if he keeps meandering off with anecdotes and digressions. Pronounce meander with three syllables not two — me-AN-der.

conciliatory:adj. conciliate:v:

If you’re in a fight with a friend and you want to end it, you should make a conciliatory gesture, such as inviting her to a party you’re having. Conciliatory describes things that make other people less angry.

The context is often a situation in which a dispute is settled by compromise. A synonym is propitiatory, though this adjective usually refers to avoiding the anger of someone who has the power to harm. In the word conciliatory, the –ory suffix means “relating to or doing,” and the root is from Latin conciliatus, from conciliare “to bring together, win over,” from concilium “council.”


Inclement usually refers to severe or harsh weather that is cold and wet. When packing for a trip to the Caribbean bring tank tops and shorts, but don’t forget a raincoat in case of inclement weather.

This adjective can also refer to a person or action that is harsh and unmerciful. Inclement is from a Latin root formed from the prefix in- “not” plus clemens “clement.” This English adjective clement can mean either mild or merciful; the more commonly used noun clemency can mean mildness or mercy.

A desperate search for a Maine elementary school teacher missing since Sunday has so far resulted in more questions than clues.

— Look into above part of the sentence is without any tense in it so it is not bad to include such into your own writiting.

surreal:adj: unrealistic, dreamlike

If you see a goldfish fly out of a melting clock and offer you tango lessons, you’re having a surreal experience! Either that or you’re asleep and dreaming. Things that are surreal combine unrelated elements to create a bizarre scene.

The adjective surreal comes from Surrealism, a movement that produced films, writing, painting, and other art forms that often contained irrational, disjointed images. So, surreal describes something that’s a bizarre mix of elements, often jarring and seemingly nonsensical. Images can be surreal, like the melting clocks in Salvador Dali’s paintings, but so can strange, dream-like moments in everyday life.


You often hear that Congress is going to enact a new statute, which means that they will make it into a law. But enact also means to perform, like in a play. (Makes you wonder if the lawmakers are actors!)

Inside the word enact is that little word act, meaning “to do.” That makes sense, because when you enact something, you make it happen. And of course, we know that to act also means to perform, and so enact means “to act out,” like on stage. Now that the new rules have been enacted, you’ll have to stop wearing your gorilla suit to work. Even after Labor Day.



To ordain is to make someone a minister, priest, monk, or other member of the clergy. In the Catholic church, for example, a bishop ordains new priests.

When you say that people have been ordained, you usually mean that they’ve been invested with special religion-related powers. In many Buddhist traditions, senior monks ordain new monks and, increasingly, female monks (or nuns) as well. Occasionally, this chiefly religious verb is used to mean “officially declare” or “decree” in a secular matter, as when a court ordains desegregation.

sartorial: adj: tailor, one who patches and mends.

If it’s the day before a big event and you have no idea what to wear and nothing in your closet is going to cut it, you are facing a sartorial dilemma — one that pertains to clothing, fashion, or dressing.

Sartorial comes from the Modern Latin word sartor which means “tailor,” literally “one who patches and mends.” In English the adjectives sartorial and sartorially are used to refer to any matter pertaining to the consideration of clothing or fashion. The root word sartor has also made its way into the field of biology. The sartorius — a muscle in the leg and the longest muscle in the human body — gets its name because it is used when crossing the legs, also known as the “tailor’s position.”

dumbfound:v: = dumb+confound, nonplus

The verb dumbfound means to puzzle, mystify, or amaze. If people never expected you to amount to much in high school, but you grew up to be a rocket scientist, you will surely dumbfound your former classmates at your next reunion.

The word dumbfound is a combination of the words dumb and confound. Dumb, in the original sense, means unable to speak. Confound is from the Latin word confundere, which means to mix together as well as to confuse. Thus the blended word dumbfound has the sense of to confuse to the point of speechlessness. If you see a solar eclipse for the first time, it might dumbfound you.


To nonplus is to baffle or confuse someone to the point that they have nothing to say. Something weird and mysterious can nonplus you, like a play that is performed entirely by chickens.

If you know a little French or Latin, you’ll recognize that “non plus” means “no more.” When something bewildering nonpluses you, there’s no more you can say or do about it. A goal of getting poor grades, running with a bad crowd, and refusing to eat would leave your parents nonplussed. Sometimes people misuse nonplus to mean “unimpressed,” but that’s not correct: to nonplus is to puzzle, confuse, and dumbfound.


Use the adjective treacly to describe something that has a sticky, sweet flavor. Your dad’s chocolate pecan pie might be a little too treacly for your taste.

Something that’s way too sugary is treacly. Your little brother might love treats like fudge and caramels and syrupy soft drinks that just taste treacly to you. You can also use the word in a more figurative way, to talk about overly sweet talk or behavior, like the treacly language on a sentimental greeting card. Treacly comes from treacle — a British term for molasses — originally “an antidote to poison,” from the Greek root theriake, “antidote for poisonous wild animals.”

enjoin:v: official order

To enjoin is to issue an urgent and official order. If the government tells loggers to stop cutting down trees, they are enjoining the loggers to stop.

Enjoin looks like it should mean bring together, and at one time, it did have that meaning. But in current usage, the only thing enjoin brings together is a command and the person on the receiving end of that order. If your doctor enjoins you to stop smoking, he is suggesting strongly that you quit.




strongly infatuated.
“he became besotted with a local barmaid”
synonyms: infatuated with, smitten with, in love with, love-struck by, head over heels in love with, hopelessly in love with, obsessed with, passionate about, consumed with desire for, devoted to, doting on, greatly enamoured of, very attracted to, very taken with, charmed by, captivated by, enchanted by, enthralled by, bewitched by, beguiled by, under someone’s spell, hypnotized by;

intoxicated; drunk.

math logs

Due to traditional method use and got no answer with tedious calculation and consumed a lot of time. Please use logic instead from now on.

forgot to subtract the SD from mean, need to take care.


solve fully to get rid of such blunders.

If algebraic is confusing then use nice numbers instead to be sure. Don’t answer half-heartedly.

Math logs, 23% correct

Did not read the question properly, that follows what should have been determined first. Please look after it afterwards.

Lacking visualization due to haste.


Best example of backsolving…

An algebraic solution to this problem is quite complicated and unwieldy.  A much simpler solution method is backsolving.

As always, start with (C).  Let’s say P = 50%.  That means 50% gets paid as rent, so K = 0.5(5000) = 2500.  Then 12\dfrac{1}{2}21 of this gets paid for groceries, so L = 1250.  Then

13\dfrac{1}{3}31 (L) = (13)(1250)≈416\bigg(\dfrac{1}{3}\bigg)(1250)\approx416(31)(1250)416


416 + 500 < 1000, so 1250 – (416 + 500) > 1250 – 1000 > 250

With this choice, more than $250 would be left.  This is too high.

First of all, we know that (C) is not the right answer, but the tricky question is: in which direction should we eliminate answers.  Recall the P is the percent paid to rent & other fixed bills: as P goes up, the amount left over goes down.  If we want to get a smaller amount at the end, we need P to go up.  Thus, we eliminate (A), (B), and (C).

We could pick either of the remaining answers.  Pick (E), P = 70%.  Now, 70% goes to rent & other fixed expenses, so what’s left is 30%.  We know 10% of $5000 is $500, so 30% is three times this, $1500.  Thus, K = 1500.  Then 12\dfrac{1}{2}21 of this gets paid for groceries, so L = 750.

13\dfrac{1}{3}31 (L) = (13)\bigg(\dfrac{1}{3}\bigg)(31)(750) = 250

25\dfrac{2}{5}52 (L) = (25)\bigg(\dfrac{2}{5}\bigg)(52)(750) = 300

750 – 250 – 300 = 200

Bingo!  This leaves the exact right amount left.  Answer = (E)


Lacked visual and a bit was off the mind at beginning.

better to assume to have more confident at exam time

Did not believe that I can solve due to presentation of data into the table and somehow due to newness.


was unnerving at first glace, but seems decipherable.



Informal def helps here: SD is average of numbers away from the mean, that is here D


Acute thinking is needed, wherever a problem is not solvable then think can not be the case you must have been making gaffe somewhere in there.




Math Q logs

Did not know to read graph

did not know to read graph

Did not solve well, unnerved right away, due to its newness

Know need to find the actual number, we do not need the number given, can be used any numbers(10, 100) in that place

the fastest way to solve this problem doesn’t involve any arithmetic. We can do this short cut because the problem asks us for a percentage. It doesn’t actually matter how many birds there really are. Pretend that there were only 10 birds. If 20% are tagged, then two are tagged.

If we want half of the birds to be tagged, that would mean we would need to tag three more to get a total of five tagged birds.

Here’s the tricky part. The problem asks us what percentage needs to be tagged of the remaining untagged birds. That means that we need to tag three of the remaining eight (because two were already tagged, leaving eight untagged). That’s three over eight, or:

and the answer is (D).

If A, B, C and D are positive integers such that 4A = 9B, 17C = 11D, and 5C = 12A, then the arrangement of the four numbers from greatest to least is

{C, D, A, B} {B, A, C, D} {D, C, A, B} {D, C, B, A} {B, D, A, C}
Remark: written well in scratch paper but wrote again wrong inequality, b

If AB = BD, and AB is 3/5 of AC, what is the ratio of circumference of the larger semicircle to that of the combined circumference of the two semicircles?

6:5 5:3 9:25 5:6 25:36
In this case taking ratio as value is perfectly fine, as we have to find the ratio.

I solved in a bit messy way.



Since square ABCD has area 25, each side of the square must have length 5.

Let’s take the smaller shaded square and label one side as x. And we’ll label one side of the larger shaded square as y.

Our goal is to find x.

Since each side of the entire square has length of 5, we know that x + y = 5.

The question tells us that the area of the larger shaded square is 9 times the area of the smaller shaded square. In other words, y2^22 is 9 times x2^22. So:

9x2^22 = y2^22

We can now take the square root of both sides of the equation to get:

3x = y

Now, we can solve for x. Let’s take our first equation, x + y = 5, and replace y with 3x (because we know that 3x = y).

x + y = 5

x + 3x = 5

4x = 5

x = 54\dfrac{5}{4}45

So the answer is B.


Whenever combination of variable is asked, don’t think to start solving for single variable, but in combined.

If we simply add or subtract these equations as is, we don’t get equal coefficients on A and B.  Notice, though, we could multiply the top equation by 2 then subtract the bottom equation:

That procedure led directly to the answer.  The cost of 1 apple and 1 banana is $1.30.


When should I implement the two different percent increase strategies? When should I use the formula of taking the differences between the two numbers, then dividing by the original. And when should I take a number and divide by the other number to see the percent increase (as in this example).


It all comes down to the wording of these problems, which can be admittedly confusing. There are a lot of different ways to word the questions, but we can break them down into two categories:

Category 1

The original amount is contained in the result: look for the phrase “is what percent of“. Here, you simply use new/old * 100


Car sales increased from 500 in July to 600 in August. August car sales are what percent of July car sales? 600/500 * 100 = 120%

The second category is probably a bit more common.

Category 2

Comparing the difference to the original: look for the phrase “is what percent greater/less than”. Here, use the formula (new-old)/old * 100


Car sales increased from 500 in July to 600 in August. August car sales are what percent greater than July car sales? (600-500)/500 * 100 = 20%



Melpomene High School has 400 students, and Thalia High School has 700 students. The following table shows the percentage breakdown for various groups in each school.

The total number of people in honor society at Melpomene High School, regardless of other activities, is approximately what percent higher than the total number of people in honor society at Thalia High School, regardless of other activities?

2% 8% 19% 29% 56%
19% is the answer,
Lets think this way, 4 is what percent higher than 2.
(4-2)/2*100 % = 50% , in the similar fashion above question can be solved.

In this question, we need to find the two numbers, and then find how much bigger one is than the other.

At Melpomene, the four categories that include the honor society add up to 16% + 26% + 10% + 4% = 56%, and 56% of 400 = (0.56)*400 = 224 students.

At Thalia, the four categories that include the honor society add up to 2% + 15% + 8% + 2% = 27%, and 27% of 700 = (0.27)*700 = 189 students.

The question really is: 224 is what percent higher than 189? Estimate — 10% of 189 is approximately 19. 189 + 19 = 208, a 10% increase. 208 + 19 = 227, a 20% increase, and that’s just over 224, so 224 should be very close to, maybe slight less than, a 20% increase. This leads us to the answer of (C).


Melpomene High School has 400 students, and Thalia High School has 700 students. The following table shows the percentage breakdown for various groups in each school.

How many non-band members at Melpomene, regardless of other activities, would have to join the band so that they had the same number of band members as does Thalia High School?

12 25 38 46 65
Ans is 25.

This question is just asking us to figure out the number in the band at Thalia and at Melpomene, and then subtract them.

At Melpomene, the four categories that include the band add up to 11% + 14% + 26% + 4% = 55%, and 55% of 400 = (0.55)*400 = 220 students.

At Thalia, the four categories that include the band add up to 8% + 10% + 15% + 2% = 35%, and 35% of 700 = (0.35)*700 = 245 students.

The difference is 25 students. Answer = (B).


Q: I thought the question was asking about non-band members. Why are we adding up band members?

A: There are two important phrases in the question that will help explain. 🙂 First “regardless of other activities” means that we should only pay attention to whether or not someone is in the band. So, whether someone is in “band only,” “honor society & band only,” “band & athletic team only,” (and so on) we will count them as band members. Second, “would have to join the band” means that we want to know how many people who are not in the band (non-band members) would need to join the band. So, we need to find out how many people are in the band in both schools. Then we can see how many band members there are at Thalia and at Melpomene. Once we find out that there are 245 at Thalia and 220 at Melpomene, we know that 25 students would have to join band at Melpomene. That way there are the same number of band members at both schools.

The diagram shows the 44 nations that occupy the continent of Europe.  (The diagram excludes Russia, which occupies both Europe & Asia.)  Every dot is a smaller nation, with a national population less than 500,000; the circles are nations each with more than half a million people.  Those nations in the “NATO” circle, as of 2013, are members of the NATO military alliance.  Those nations in the “euro” circle, as of 2013, use the euro as their primary currency.

Of the nations with national populations more than half a million people, approximately what percent of European nations are neither members of NATO nor primary users of the euro?

25% 27% 31% 47% 75%
Ans is: 11/36

it took Ellen 6 hours to ride her bike a total distance of 120 miles. For the first part of the trip, her speed was constantly 25 miles per hour. For the second part of her trip, her speed was constantly 15 miles per hour. For how many miles did Ellen travel at 25 miles per hour?

60 62.5 66 2/3 75 90
Read question well, then solve for the answer. OK. 75

Paucity of discernment,  needed to work on the big triangle first.. 9 root3 is answer.

Never use formula here. Instead the logic below. Ok

Calculate like this, instead

Every sort of answer choice is given, better to solve till you reach an exact answer than solving in mind and getting wrong. In this legs are equal.

can be solved in another way too.



how 2 can be made 4, what percent of increase is needed to get 4. that is 100%. Similar idea would be enough for this question.


2 is what percent less than 4, (4-2)/4 = 50%, in this similar fashion above question can be solved. Ok.




oct-02-2018 October 5, 2018 (8 words) Learning, completed
magoosh October 1, 2018 (44 words) Learning, listing, completed
hom.aug.16.2018 August 29, 2018 (27 words) completed, most learned
homo.24.aug.2018 August 29, 2018 (18 words) completed, most leaned
homo.19.aug.2018 August 19, 2018 (2 words) completed
hom.aug.04.2018 August 14, 2018 (72 words)
hom.aug.08.2018 August 13, 2018 (54 words)
hom.aug.02.2018 August 3, 2018 (108 words)
hom-7.31.2018 July 31, 2018 (24 words)
hom-7.30.2018 July 30, 2018 (38 words)
homophones-july-2018 July 28, 2018 (14 words)  



hom-7.26.2018 July 28, 2018 (8 words)
SE-july-16-2k18-mnhtn July 28, 2018 (10 words)
magoosh-advanced7 July 27, 2018 (13 words)
magooshTC July 27, 2018 (54 words)
SC magoosh-06-july-2018 July 26, 2018 (10 words)
SC magoosh-06-july-2018 July 24, 2018 (27 words)
Homophones-july-10-2018 July 24, 2018 (87 words)
Homophones-june12-2018 July 9, 2018 (98 words)
Homophones-V July 7, 2018 (110 words)
Suba2kgre June 13, 2018 (92 words)
1024gre June 11, 2018 (77 words)
Homophones — 23April — 2018 June 11, 2018 (62 words)
may 02 2018 May 2, 2018 (5 words)
20-dec-2017 May 1, 2018 (22 words)
22-oct-2017-IV April 26, 2018 (15 words)
27-oct-2017-IV April 26, 2018 (16 words)
6-jan-2018 April 20, 2018 (23 words)
9-jan-2018 April 20, 2018 (67 words)
13-april-2018 April 20, 2018 (4 words)
4-nov-2017 April 20, 2018 (28 words)
18-oct-2016-III April 19, 2018 (51 words)
10-jan-2018 April 18, 2018 (81 words)
Homophones-VII April 17, 2018 (14 words)
Homophones April 16, 2018 (111 words)
Homophones-VI April 16, 2018 (96 words)
18-oct-2016 April 16, 2018 (52 words)
10oct2017 April 16, 2018 (11 words)
16-jan-2016 April 16, 2018 (44 words)
5lb April 13, 2018 (12 words)
Homophones-13april-2018 April 13, 2018 (3 words)
16-nov-2017-Barren April 13, 2018 (22 words)
ETS-16-feb April 13, 2018 (9 words)
13-jan-2018 April 13, 2018 (20 words)
10-april-2018 April 10, 2018 (1 words)
20-jan-2018 April 9, 2018 (142 words)
4-april-2018 April 4, 2018 (2 words)
5lb-tc April 3, 2018 (44 words)
feb-03-2018 April 3, 2018 (39 words)
Homophones-IV April 2, 2018 (44 words)
Homophones-III March 7, 2018 (50 words)
8-jan-2018 February 20, 2018 (55 words)
ETS February 17, 2018 (48 words)
30-jan-2018 February 8, 2018 (100 words)
07-feb-2018 February 7, 2018 (5 words)
9-dec-2017 January 26, 2018 (39 words)
30-oct-HFW-Barren January 19, 2018 (11 words)
Homophones-II January 19, 2018 (44 words)
2-jan-2017 January 19, 2018 (15 words)
Homophones January 14, 2018 (2 words)
01-jan-2018 January 5, 2018 (15 words)
GRE High Frequency Words December 19, 2017 (334 words)
7-nov-2017 December 8, 2017 (9 words)
17-nov-2017-Barren December 8, 2017 (10 words)
21-oct-2017 December 8, 2017 (14 words)
4-dec-2017 December 4, 2017 (1 words)
21-nov-2017-hfw November 30, 2017 (15 words)
20-nov-2017-hfw November 30, 2017 (8 words)
26-nov-2017 November 26, 2017 (4 words)
30-oct-HFW-Barren-II November 16, 2017 (12 words)
27-oct-2017-III October 27, 2017 (18 words)
27-oct-2017-II October 27, 2017 (18 words)
27-oct-2017-5TC October 27, 2017 (18 words)
20-oct-2017-II October 27, 2017 (15 words)
19-0ct-2018 October 24, 2017 (45 words)
22-oct-2017-II October 24, 2017 (15 words)
22-oct-2017-V October 23, 2017 (13 words)
22-oct-2017-III October 23, 2017 (15 words)
22-oct-2017 October 23, 2017 (15 words)
20-oct-2017 October 23, 2017 (15 words)
18-oct-2016-II October 21, 2017 (50 words)
12oct2017 October 19, 2017 (30 words)



A high school valedictorian is an exemplar of dedication and hard work. Most parents would love for their children to emulate a student with such excellent grades.

Notice the similarity between the words exemplar and example. This word can mean both “perfect example” and “typical example.” A fireman can be an exemplar of courage, and a building can be an exemplar of the architecture from a certain period.

The definition of an exemplar is person or thing that is considered as a pattern to be copied. An example of an exemplar is a person that others try to imitate, such as Michael Jackson. An example of an exemplar is a copy of a manuscript.


You’ve heard the old saying “Pride comes before the fall?” Well, you could just as easily say pride is a precursor to the fall. A precursor is something that happens before something else.

You don’t have to be a dead languages scholar to guess that this word springs from a Latin source — praecursor, “to run before.” A precursor is usually related to what it precedes. It’s a catalyst or a harbinger, leading to what follows or providing a clue that it’s going to happen. Binging on holiday candy is a precursor to tummy aches and promises to exercise more. Draconian policies in unstable nations are often a precursor to rebellion.

impunity:n: exemption, freedom

If doing something usually results in punishment, but you do it with impunity, you will not be punished for the deed. Students are not allowed to chew gum in school, but teachers do it with impunity. Not fair!

The noun, impunity, comes from the Latin roots im- “not” plus poena “punishment,” a root which has also produced the word pain. Impunity, then, is the freedom from punishment or pain. If someone has committed a punishable offense but does not have to fear punishment, he or she does it “with impunity.” Cybercriminals operate with impunity from some Eastern European countries.

chaste:n: celibate, continent

If you belong to a chastity club, you might have to take a pledge to be chaste until marriage. Chaste can be defined as “pure and virtuous,” but basically it means “not having sex.”

This word is related to the Latin source of the verb castrate “to remove a man’s testicles,” so it’s definitely related to sex. And chaste is from the same Latin source as the noun caste “a Hindu social class separated from other classes.” So the word chaste means no sex, and the word caste means pure and virtuous.

erotic: adjn: titilating

Use erotic to describe a sexy, sexy person. What makes that person so sexy? Maybe his or her erotic attitude or looks, meaning “arousing.”

The word erotic came into English from French — of course! — and can be traced back to the Greek word erōtikos, from erōs or erōt-, meaning “sexual love.” The adjective erotic is often used to describe a person’s carnal desires, but it can be used to characterize anything that’s sexual in nature or that arouses sexual desires, such as the erotic themes in a racy movie, an erotic dancer in a club, or erotic images in a painting.

clamber: nv: scramble

To clamber is to climb awkwardly. Hamlet’s Ophelia was said to have been clambering on a weak branch of a willow when she met her “muddy death.” It’s never a good idea to clamber, let alone on weak willow branches.

We associate the word clamber far more often with toddlers (than Shakespearean tragedy). Toddlers are known for naturally clumsy, ill-coordinated movements we deem cute not foolish. Suitably enough, the word comes from the delightful and long obsolete Middle English word clamb, meaning the past tense of climb, a word that has all the happy logic of a toddler’s imagination.


To clamor is to make a demand — LOUDLY. It’s usually a group that clamors — like Americans might clamor for comprehensive health care coverage.

The noun clamor is often used specifically to describe a noisy outcry from a group of people, but more generally, the word means any loud, harsh sound. You could describe the clamor of sirens in the night or the clamor of the approaching subway in the tunnel.

circumspect: adj: discreet, prudent

If you are circumspect, you think carefully before doing or saying anything. A good quality in someone entrusted with responsibility, though sometimes boring in a friend.

The word circumspect was borrowed from Latin circumspectus, from circumspicere “to be cautious.” The basic meaning of Latin circumspicere is “to look around.” Near synonyms are prudent and cautious, though circumspect implies a careful consideration of all circumstances and a desire to avoid mistakes and bad consequences.

circumvent: v: dodge

1. find a way around (an obstacle).
“if you come to an obstruction in a road you can seek to circumvent it”

give in:v: cease fighting or argument, admit defeat

reconnaissance: n:

Reconnaissance is checking out a situation before taking action. Often it’s used as a military term, but you could also do reconnaissance on a new employee before you hire her, or a resort before you take a vacation.

Reconnaissance is a noun, and it technically means “the act of reconnoitering.” Whoa. Never heard that word before? Reconnoitering is just a fancy way of saying that you’re checking something out — sometimes in a sneaky way. If you like a girl in your Spanish class, you might ask a friend to do some reconnaissance to find out what she’s like. The word comes from the French reconnaître, which means “recognize.”


The Renaissance was the period in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries when there was a surge of interest in and production of art and literature. “Renaissance art” describes the style of art that came out of this period.

When you see the word Renaissance spelled with a capital R, you can be sure it’s referring to the European cultural movement, or the art, literature, and architecture it inspired. The Renaissance began in Italy, largely as an growth of interest in classical art and ideas. The word itself comes from the French phrase renaissance des lettres, used by the 19th century historian Jules Michelet. In Old French renaissance means “rebirth.”


To chide someone is to ride them or get on their case, without really getting in their face.

People have been nagging since well before the 12th century, when the word chide came along as a new way to say “complain” or “rail.” If you want to remind someone of a flaw they have or an error they keep repeating, you might chide them with sarcasm, humor, or some seriousness. Where a sharp elbow in the ribs lets you know “Stop it, right now!,” a chide is more like a gentle elbow in the belly, saying “Come on, you’re late; did you forget your watch again?”

complimentary: adj:

If you say something complimentary, like “Grandma, that plastic flower looks so pretty in your hair,” you are flattering, praising or admiring someone.

“Resembling a compliment” is one way to define the word complimentary, when you use it in the sense of giving praise. A second meaning of complimentary is “free.” If your hotel includes breakfast with the price of your room, they may call it a complimentary breakfast. It’s easy to get complimentary confused with complementary, which sounds exactly the same but means “filling in or completing.”

complementary: adjn:

If something is complementary, then it somehow completes or enhances the qualities of something else. If your beautiful voice is completely complementary to your brother’s song writing skills, you should form a family band!

You’ve probably heard of “complementary colors,” colors that are opposite in hue on the color wheel but actually go well together. When combined, they make a harmonious palette. People’s personalities can also be complementary, as can certain food pairings. But be careful not to confuse this adjective with the closely spelled complimentary, which means “supplied free of charge.”




Languorous: adj: Lacking spirit or liveliness.

Languid, lackadaisical, lethargy, unenergetic.

languorous: Adj:


To be languorous is to be dreamy, lackadaisical, and languid. When someone is languorous, she’s lying around, daydreaming, possibly fanning herself lazily. It’s a little self-indulgent.

Languorous refers to a certain kind of mood everyone gets in sometimes — when you’d rather lie around thinking than doing work or having fun. When you’re languorous, you’re tired and maybe a little depressed. Things can be languorous, too — like a hot, languorous summer afternoon or a languorous song that’s slow and mournful. If you’ve ever lounged in bed for an hour after you were supposed to get up, you’re familiar with feeling languorous.

precipitate: v:adj:

Precipitate usually means “bringing something on” or “making it happen” — and not always in a good way. An unpopular verdict might “precipitate violence” or one false step at the Grand Canyon could precipitate you down into the gorge.

Precipitate, as a verb, can also mean specifically, “to fall from clouds,” such as rain, snow, or other forms of precipitation. When used as an adjective, precipitate means “hasty” or “acting suddenly.” If you decide to throw your class project in a trash masher just because someone in your class had a similar idea, then your actions might be described as precipitate. Or if you do that sort of thing regularly, you may be a precipitate person.


precipitous: adj:

A sharp, steep drop — whether it’s in a stock price, a roller coaster, or a star’s popularity — could be described as a precipitous one. Put simply, precipitous means perilously steep.

Look closely and you’ll spot most of the word precipice (a sheer, almost vertical cliff) in precipitous. Now imagine how you’d feel standing at the edge peering over, and you’ll grasp the sense of impending danger that precipitous tends to imply. Precipitous declines in sales lead to bankruptcy. Precipitous mountainside hiking trails are not for the acrophobic. It can describe an ascent, but precipitous is most often used for things going literally or figuratively downhill.


Voodoo is a set of religious beliefs mainly followed by people in Caribbean countries and the Southern United States. People who practice voodoo believe that death is a transition from the visible to the invisible world.

You may see voodoo portrayed on TV and in movies as a scary, violent cult that uses black magic and voodoo dolls to torment people. In reality, voodoo is a varied, community-centered religion with deep African influences, which often incorporates Catholic saint imagery. Voodoo comes from the Louisiana French voudou, ultimately from a West African language.


A wont is a custom or habit, like my wont to drink at least ten cups of coffee a day. (In this particular example, some people might call my wont an addiction.)

Wont is a tricky word, in terms of pronunciation; some people argue it sounds like want, while others insist it’s pronounced like won’t. Perhaps the confusion over pronunciation explains why this word is used relatively infrequently in everyday speech. It’s most people’s wont to use a synonym like custom or habit.


n a film or illustrated lecture on traveling


If you covet something, you eagerly desire something that someone else has. If it’s 95 degrees out and humid, you may find yourself coveting your neighbor’s air conditioner.

If the word covet sounds familiar, you’re thinking of the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” Basically this means you should be happy with your electronic gadgets and not be jealous when a friend gets something better.

atypical:adj: untypical

Typical means what you would expect—a typical suburban town has lots of neat little houses and people. Atypical means outside of type—an atypical suburban town might be populated by zombies in damp caves.

Atypical is a synonym of “unusual,” but it carries a more objective feel—scientific studies might mention atypical results, suggesting that there is a clear definition of what is typical and what is not. “Unusual” is more of a casual observation that one might make in a non-scientific context.

adj: not representative of a group, class, or type

lapse: nv:

A lapse is a temporary slip, failure or break in continuity. Eating a second helping of cake when you’re otherwise doing well on your diet is a lapse. Eating the whole cake in one sitting is a serious lapse in judgment.

First used to imply a “slip of the memory,” the noun lapse evolved in the sixteenth century from the Latin lapsus, meaning “a slipping and falling, falling into error.” The connotation of “a moral slip” developed later, and the verb form came into existence even later than that. Behaving badly one day when you’re usually on your best behavior is a lapse; Behaving badly again after a short stint being well-mannered means you’re lapsing back into nasty old habits.


A relapse is a decline, especially of someone’s health. If your grandmother survived cancer only to have it return two years later, you could say she suffered a relapse.

Relapse implies that someone has recovered from an illness and slid back into a worse state, like when you are getting over a cold but then you suddenly feel bad all over again. Unwanted behavior can also be described this way; if you find yourself biting your nails again, it’s a nail-biting relapse. The Latin word relabi is the root of relapse, slip back.


Corollary describes a result that is the natural consequence of something else. You could say that your weight gain is a corollary of the recent arrival of a bakery across the street from your house.

The noun corollary describes an action’s consequence, such as having to study more, a corollary to getting a bad grade. The word is often seen with the prepositions “to” or “of,” as in “a corollary to fortune is fame.” Math enthusiasts may already be familiar with the word corollary, which can be used more formally to describe a new proof or proposition that follows naturally from an established one.


A crusader is a person who works hard or campaigns forcefully for a cause. Most crusaders advocate dramatic social or political change.

You can call a fierce champion for a cancer cure a crusader, and another kind of crusader could be an activist who works for school reform. Crusaders tend to be radical or at least progressive, embracing some kind of change. Crusader comes from crusade, which meant “campaign against a public evil” in the 18th century, but which earlier referred mainly to the religious-based military Crusades of the Middle Ages.



Onslaught is a military term that refers to an attack against an enemy. It’s safe to say that no one wants to be caught on the receiving end of an onslaught, because there will be lots of danger, destruction and probably death.

One way to help you remember the brutal meaning of onslaught is through the word’s English origin, slaught, meaning “slaughter.” But onslaught can be used in non-military ways, too. It can mean a barrage of written or spoken communication, like an onslaught of emailed birthday wishes. Taken individually, the birthday wishes are nice but an onslaught is too many, too fast, all at once. Onslaught can also mean a sudden and severe start of trouble. For example, if your office is unprepared for the onslaught of flu season, the entire sales force will be home sick at the same time.


n: the time at which something is supposed to begin

beginning, commencement, first, get-go, kickoff, offset, showtime, start, starting time


Use quasi when you want to say something is almost but not quite what it describes. A quasi mathematician can add and subtract adequately, but has trouble figuring out fractions.

The adjective quasi is often hyphenated with the word it resembles. Quasi-scientific ideas are ideas that resemble real science, but haven’t been backed up with any real evidence. A quasi-religious person may attend church services, but he doesn’t take much interest in what’s being said. Get the idea? It’s a great alternative for “kind of.


If you’re reading this on a treadmill or while taking a walk, you may know about the peripatetic, or walking, philosopher Aristotle, who taught while strolling with his students. Or, maybe you just like being a peripatetic, a walking wanderer.

Peri- is the Greek word for “around,” and peripatetic is an adjective that describes someone who likes to walk or travel around. Peripatetic is also a noun for a person who travels from one place to another or moves around a lot. If you walk in a circle, you are peripatetic, or walking, but you aren’t a peripatetic, or wanderer, unless you actually go somewhere.


An itinerant is a person who moves from place to place, typically for work, like the itinerant preacher who moves to a new community every few years.

Itinerant is pronounced “eye-TIN-er-ant.” It might remind you of itinerary, the traveler’s schedule that lists flights, hotel check-in times, and other plans. It’s no surprise that both words come from the Latin word itinerare, meaning “to travel.” Itinerant was first used in the 16th century to describe circuit judges who traveled to faraway courtrooms. Today, almost anyone can be an itinerant.


If you botch something, you make a mess of it or you ruin it. If you totally botch your lines in the school play, you stammer and stutter your way through the whole thing.

Interestingly, the word botch originally meant the opposite of what it means today. The Middle English word bocchen meant to mend or repair. As a noun botch means an embarrassing mistake or something that is done poorly, especially due to lack of skill. If they’ve never painted before, your friends working on set design might make a complete botch of the scenery for the play, which might involve repainting the whole thing.

studied:adj: premeditated

Studied describes a result achieved, not spontaneously, but by calculated and deliberate effort. It will probably take a studied effort to not appear nervous when you give an oral presentation.

Leaders often do not respond immediately to important events. They get a little background information first so they can give a studied response. When stars have to stand around on the red carpet before the Oscars to have their pictures taken, their smiles become less spontaneous and more studied. Even if you walk past a group of girls with studied nonchalance, they still know that you have noticed them.


(occultation, occult)

Have you ever seen an eclipse? That’s when the sun, earth or moon cross paths and cover each other up temporarily.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon blocks our view of the sun for a bit. A lunar eclipse happens when the moon is on one side of the earth and the sun directly opposite, so the moon disappears. A TV eclipse, perhaps the most serious of all, is when your dad walks in at the most crucial part of the movie and blocks your view of the TV while he lectures about taking out the trash.

blemished: adj:

Having a blemish or flaw

Marred(impaired appearance or quality of something) by imperfections


A spate is a large number. If a spate of new coffee shops open in your neighborhood, it’ll be easy for you to stay wide awake. You’ll have easy access to plenty of caffeine.

Though it’s now used to describe a large number or unusually large amount of something, the word spate originally described a sudden flood of water, such as a river overflowing after a downpour. Thinking about being overwhelmed by a sudden rush of water will help you remember to use spate when you encounter an unexpected overflow of anything, whether it’s books, robberies, celebrity break-ups, or corporate mergers.


If something is proverbial, it’s referred to in a familiar saying. If your little brother knocks over his milk and starts crying, you might think of the proverbial spilled milk.

Proverb is the root of proverbial, and it comes from the Latin word proverbium, “a common saying.” Proverbs are little stories or expressions that usually teach a lesson, like “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” which means “It’s a waste of time to be upset about something that can’t be helped.” You could say to your dog, “Well, aren’t you the proverbial best friend?” or tell your sister, who’s dyed her hair purple, “You stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.”


A nerve is a group of fibers that send sensation or physical feeling to the brain. Back pain can sometimes be caused by a damaged or pinched nerve.

Your body depends on your nerves for sensing pain, heat, and cold — not to mention making it possible for you to move your muscles. You can also use the word nerve to mean bravery or daring: “She didn’t know if she’d have the nerve to skydive when she was finally up in the plane.” In the 1500s, to nerve was “to ornament with threads.” All of these come from a Latin root, nervus, “sinew, tendon, cord, or bowstring.”


family: unnerve:nv, nervous.

Use the adjective unnerving to describe situations and experiences that cause you to lose your courage. No matter how brave you are, a walk alone through a cemetery at night is bound to be a little unnerving.

You might find it unnerving to get a flat tire on a deserted country road at sunset, or to find yourself onstage mid-play having completely forgotten your lines. In the 1620’s, the root word unnerve meant “to destroy the strength of,” but by the early 1700’s it came to mean “to deprive of courage.”

redoubtable:adj: formidable, unnerving, alarming

Redoubtable means honorable, maybe even intimidatingly so. If your grandmother worked tirelessly to raise four kids on her own and start her own taxi cab business and to this day, keeps all of her cabbies in line, she is without a doubt redoubtable.

The adjective redoubtable traces back to the French word redute, meaning “to dread,” a combination of the prefix re-, which adds emphasis, and duter, which mean “to doubt.” But it isn’t the redoubtable person that you doubt — it’s yourself or your ability to compete against or be compared to him or her. That’s where the dread comes in. But you can learn a lot from and be inspired by redoubtable people, if you can just get over being afraid of them.

redoubt:n: fortification

A redoubt is a fort or retreat, like a temporary military shelter. Want to see a redoubt? Go to the US Military Academy at West Point where there are redoubts from the Revolutionary War. It’s also spelled “redout.”

Redoubts were often built around existing fortifications out of earth or stone to protect the most vulnerable soldiers outside the main area. Redoubt means “place of retreat,” and a figurative redoubt might be the comfort you get from your group of friends or even your own certainty about the truth of your beliefs.


Forte means an area in which you are strong or good. Having two left feet and no sense of rhythm, dancing would not be considered your forte. Better to impress people with card tricks, if that’s your area of expertise, or your forte.

Your forte is what you would focus on if you decided to enter a talent show. The word forte actually comes from the similar-sounding Latin word fortis, which means “strong.” Romans (and countless groups since) called the big, barricaded structures they built “forts” because they were supposed to stay strong and keep out the hordes of invading barbarians. In music, playing forte means playing loud.

retiring:adj: unassuming, modest, shy, self-effacing, reticent

If you are a retiring person, you avoid being at the center of attention. You can often be found in the library and other quiet places, and if someone compliments you, you’re likely to blush and change the subject.

If you call someone retiring, it isn’t necessarily clear whether you mean it as a compliment or something closer to a put-down. Usually, the word is used to describe someone who is shy or modest to a fault. But it can also be used to suggest that someone isn’t arrogant, which is usually a good thing. And, of course, retiring can also refer to someone who stepped down from their last job and doesn’t intend to work anymore.

contrived:adj: planned, artificial, unnatural

If you see something that seems fake since it was too perfectly planned out, call it contrived. If you can easily predict the final minutes of a made-for-TV movie, then call it contrived.

The adjective contrived describes something that is artificially planned, especially in an obvious way, so it comes across as faked or forced. It’s not just drama that can come off as contrived. Someone’s speech habits, wardrobe, or even personality can seem contrived. Whenever someone appears as if he or she is “trying too hard,” they might seem contrived, or the opposite of “natural.”

unassuming:adj: modest, retiring

The word unassuming means modest, lacking in arrogance, pleasant, or polite. You’ll find that some of the most unassuming people are actually the most interesting and powerful of all. They’re just decent enough not to display it all the time.

It’s been said that when you assume, you make an ass of you and me: that’s because when you assume you draw conclusions that you shouldn’t. If you’re unassuming, you don’t make that mistake. Even though he was a rock star, I found Jason to be unassuming and delightful. He treated everyone like a friend. It’s the height of irony that the real Wizard of Oz turns out to be an unassuming country gentleman, when the image he projected was of fearsome, raw, tyrannical power.

proscribe:v: veto, interdict, forbid, disallow

To proscribe something is to forbid or prohibit it, as a school principal might proscribe the use of cell phones in class.

Proscribe sounds similar to the word prescribe, but be careful: these words are essentially opposite in meaning. While proscribe means forbid, prescribe is used when a doctor recommends a medicine or remedy. Of course, if you want an excuse for not following your doctor’s orders, you could say you were confused about the meaning of these two words — but that would be lying, which is proscribed by most people’s value systems. And it would also be bad for your health.


If you gab, chat, and talk it up with someone, you have conversation, but if you’re looking for input from each other as you talk, you confer, or consult, together. They had a family meeting to confer about a schedule for sharing the new laptop.

Many uses of the verb confer involve consulting with another person or as a group. Confer has a second use meaning “bestow,” which means to award or hand over something. You can confer a medal on a winner or hero, or you can confer status through a promotion or assignment. Each year the teacher would confer the special honor of summer hamster-sitter on one responsible student.

v: present

“The university conferred a degree on its most famous former student, who never graduated”

v: have a conference in order to talk something over

“We conferred about a plan of action”


If you wield a tool or a weapon, you handle it effectively. Picture a gallant knight wielding a sword or a skillful chef wielding a whisk.

You don’t just have to wield something physical; you can also wield or exert influence or authority. Wield is frequently followed by the word power. If you were a king, you could wield great power in your kingdom — exerting your influence over everything from food rations to castle upkeep. As it is, though, you might just wield power over your pet goldfish. Note: wield follows the i before e, except after c spelling rule.

v: handle effectively

“The burglar wielded an axe”
handle, manage

v: have and exercise

wield power and authority”
exert, maintain

gallant: adj:

If you volunteer to remove a huge, hairy spider from your bathroom ceiling, your whole family will be grateful for your gallant actions. The adjective gallant means “heroic or brave.”

In the past, gallant was used to describe a man’s behavior toward a woman, especially if he saved her from something or helped her with something she was unable to do on her own. It can still be used that way, but more often it describes any kind of bravery, and it is just as correct to describe a woman’s bravery as gallant as it is a man’s.

intimation: n: inkling, glimmering.

The noun intimation means a hint or an indirect suggestion. Your teacher’s intimation that there could be a quiz the next day might send you into a panic, while your friend sitting beside you might not even notice.

Intimation comes from the Latin word intimationem, which means an announcement. In English, intimation refers to a less direct form of communication. It’s a suggestion or hint, rather than a blatant statement of fact. Your first intimation that your brother had a girlfriend was the amount of time he spent whispering into the phone. The second intimation was when he asked your parents for money for two movie tickets.

impudent: adj: impertinent, insolent

An impudent person is bold, sassy, and shameless. If you want to get into a fancy nightclub and you tell the bouncer, “Let me in, I’m much more beautiful than all these ugly losers in line,” that’s impudent behavior.

Impudent comes from the Latin combination of im, meaning without, and pudens, meaning shame. We often call someone impudent if they’re disrespectful, snotty, or inappropriate in a way that makes someone feel bad. If you know someone has just lost all their money on the stock market, don’t be impudent and ask them how they’re going to afford gas money for their yacht.

gratuitous: adj:


Gratuitous means “without cause” or “unnecessary.” Telling ridiculous jokes at a somber occasion would be a display of gratuitous humor.

Gratuitous can be used to refer to something that’s unnecessary and mildly annoying. If a friend frequently gives you fashion tips, even though you’ve expressed no interest in receiving them, you’d be correct in labeling her advice as gratuitous. In addition, gratuitous can be used to indicate that something is not only unnecessary but also inappropriate. Some people claim that some films and video games contain gratuitous violence — that is, violence that is excessive and offensive.

ineluctable: adj: inescapable, unavoidable

Huh? Are you scratching your head at this word? The ineluctable conclusion is that you haven’t the faintest idea what it means. Ineluctable means impossible to avoid.

A five syllable beauty like ineluctable is obviously not the kind of word you throw around in daily speech. It’s far more often used as a written word, as in the common phrase “ineluctable conclusion.” Used interchangeably with the more common unavoidable, though ineluctable implies an unsuccessful attempt to battle against whatever is ineluctable: after all, it comes from the Latin word “to struggle.”

permissive: adj: permit:nv

Being permissive is the opposite of being strict. Permissive parents let their kids stay up later and have more sweets.

A permissive person is a little more lenient or loosey-goosey with the rules. A permissive teacher is easier on the students and lets them get away with more. A permissive coach will cut players slack during practices and games. Laws can be permissive too — about drugs, guns, and other things that could be tightly controlled. A permissive society is one with more freedom. When a situation is permissive, there’s permission to do more things.


Bondage is the state of being bound, like a slave. If you’re in handcuffs, you’re in bondage.

The word bondage has meant “condition of a serf or slave” since the 1300s, the same time the word bond came along to mean “anything that binds.” Bondage originated around the time Dante was writing “The Inferno,” in which Satan flaps his wings to try and break free of bondage, as he’s stuck in ice up to his chest. Most people would like to be free of any kind of bondage, which is why the X-Ray Spex (a punk band from the ’70s) yell, “Oh bondage, up yours!”