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prolix \pro-LIKS; PRO-liks\, adjective:

1. Extending to a great length; unnecessarily long; wordy.

2. Tending to speak or write at excessive length.

It was a cumbersome book, widely criticized for being prolix in style and maddeningly circular in
-- Simon Winchester, "Word Imperfect", The Atlantic, May 2001
Montaigne is a little too prolix in his determination to tell us almost everything that happens as he
fishes his way across the country, and he gives us a few too many accounts of the people he
meets and of their repetitiously gloomy opinions.
-- Adam Hochschild, "Deep Wigglers of the Volga", New York Times, June 28, 1998
Greenspan, on the other hand, is given to prolix comments whose sentences are hung like
Christmas trees with dependent clauses.
-- John M. Berry, "Greenspan: A Man Aware of Feasibility", Washington Post, June 14, 1987

Prolix is derived from Latin prolixus, "poured forth, overflowing, extended, long," from pro-,
"forward" + liquere, "to be fluid."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for prolix

cavort \kuh-VORT\, intransitive verb:

1. To bound or prance about.

2. To have lively or boisterous fun; to behave in a high-spirited, festive manner.

. . .Enkidu, who was seduced by gradual steps to embrace the refinements of civilization, only to
regret on his deathbed what he had left behind: a free life cavorting with gazelles.
-- Yi-Fu Tuan, Escapism
But why struggle with a term paper on the elements of foreshadowing in Bleak House when I
could be cavorting on the beach.
-- Dani Shapiro, Slow Motion
By 1900, Leo-Chico would have been thirteen years old, and just past his bar mitzvah, or old
enough to know better than to cavort with street idlers and gamblers.
-- Simon Louvish, Monkey Business
The men spent the next few weeks there drinking beer, eating hibachi-grilled fish, and cavorting
with the young ladies.
-- Robert Whiting, Tokyo Underworld

Cavort is perhaps an alteration of curvet, "a light leap by a horse" (with the back arched or
curved), from Italian corvetta, "a little curve," from Middle French courbette, from courber, "to
curve," from Latin curvare, "to bend, to curve," from curvus, "curved, bent."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for cavort

refractory \rih-FRAK-tuh-ree\, adjective:

1. Stubbornly disobedient; unmanageable.

2. Resisting ordinary treatment or cure.
3. Difficult to melt or work; capable of enduring high temperature.

It's a head shot of Lucien Bouchard peering out of the dark, openmouthed, teeth showing, eyes
glittering and appearing not to have shaved in a week. In another age, the shot might have been
held up to a refractory kid with the warning, "The boogeyman will get you if you don't watch out."
-- George Bain, "Whose Reality?", Time, October 13, 1997
And even those most refractory infections of all, those caused by viruses--formerly dismissed as
untreatable because viruses disappeared into the inner labyrinths of the living cells, merging into
the very genomes--were becoming amenable to early treatments.
-- Frank Ryan M.D., Virus X
Bauxite is mined in only a few places. It is used to make aluminum, iron, copper and dozens of
refractory products such as the bricks used to line blast furnaces.
-- Robert Goodrich, "Melvin Price Support Center's Bauxite Will Be Sold", St. Louis Post-
Dispatch, August 10, 2000

Refractory comes from Latin refractarius, "stubborn," from refragari, "to oppose, to withstand, to

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for refractory

accede \ak-SEED\, intransitive verb:

1. To agree or assent; to give in to a request or demand.

2. To become a party to an agreement, treaty, convention, etc.
3. To attain an office or rank; to enter upon the duties of an office.

Well, after much blustering and standing and sitting, he acceded to my demand.
-- Alfred Alcorn, Murder in the Museum of Man
Jiang Zemin, the Chinese president, announced that China would accede to the Information
Technology Agreement signed last winter, which will eliminate China's steep tariffs on imported
computer and telecommunications equipment.
-- John M. Broder, "U.S. and China Reach Trade Pacts but Clash on Rights", New York Times,
October 30, 1997
She is looking down at him with a tender smile, as if he were a prince, Harry thinks, and she a
servant, grateful to accede to his every whim.
-- Millicent Dillon, Harry Gold

Accede derives from Latin accedere, "to approach, to accede," from ad-, "toward, to" + cedere,
"to move, to yield."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for accede

spoonerism \SPOO-nuh-riz-uhm\, noun:

The transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words.

Some examples:

• We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish ["half-formed wish"] inside us.

The Lord is a shoving leopard ["loving shepherd"].

It is kisstomary to cuss ["customary to kiss"] the bride.
Is the bean dizzy ["dean busy"]?
When the boys come back from France, we'll have the hags flung out ["flags hung out"]!
Let me sew you to your sheet ["show you to your seat"].

Spoonerism comes from the name of the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), a kindly
but nervous Anglican clergyman and educationalist. All the above examples were committed by
(or attributed to) him.

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for spoonerism

brio \BREE-oh\, noun:

Enthusiastic vigor; vivacity; liveliness; spirit.

Though my judgment was no doubt affected by all the wine we'd consumed, I remember being
elated by our performance that night: our inspired spur-of-the-moment dialogue, the actors
fleshing out their roles with such brio.
-- Gail Godwin, Evensong
For him, life must be a party, a ball, an endless carnival. Each person must invent a role for
himself and play it with brio.
-- Lydia Flem, Casanova: The Man Who Really Loved Women (translated by Catherine
The Internet has always been home to plenty of unvarnished brio.
-- Timothy L. O'Brien, "Corporate Love Letters: Youstink.Com", New York Times, April 4, 1999

Brio is from the Italian, ultimately of Celtic origin.

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for brio

putsch \PUCH ('u' as in 'push')\, noun:

(Sometimes capitalized) A secretly planned and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a

Hitler operated from Munich where he enjoyed a fair degree of support, and it was here that his
Putsch took place in an effort to seize power in Bavaria.
-- Alan Jefferson, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
President Bush, underwriter of the island's nascent democracy, swiftly announced that the coup
would not stand, then just as quickly receded into embarrassed silence when informed by his staff
that his own crew in Port-au-Prince not only had foreknowledge of the putsch but had allowed it
to advance without a word.
-- Bob Shacochis, The Immaculate Invasion

Putsch comes from German, from Middle High German, literally, "thrust."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for putsch

rivulet \RIV-yuh-lut\, noun:

A small stream or brook; a streamlet.

But Stephen speaks of water in the desert, and triumphal swelling progress: raindrop, runnel,
rivulet, river, sea.
-- Blake Morrison, As If
There was a rivulet of scummy water heading for his highly polished black shoe.
-- Joanne Harris, Chocolat
After two minutes in the steam chamber, sweat began to flow in rivulets from every pore in my
body, dripping steadily from my fingertips.
-- Fen Montaigne, Reeling in Russia

Rivulet is from Italian rivoletto, diminutive of rivolo, from Latin rivulus, diminutive of rivus, "a brook,
a stream."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for rivulet

abecedarian \ay-bee-see-DAIR-ee-uhn\, noun:

1. One who is learning the alphabet; hence, a beginner.

2. One engaged in teaching the alphabet.
3. Pertaining to the letters of the alphabet.
4. Arranged alphabetically.
5. Rudimentary; elementary.

Lorraine Heggessey and executive producer Jeremy Mills adroitly tapped into a national
obsession at exactly the right time, presenting the topic in a way that appealed to experts and
abecedarians alike.
-- Victor Lewis-Smith, "Lords of the mobile dance", The Evening Standard, June 11, 2001
While much of the work resembled abecedarian attempts of a novice choreographer, "Duet,"
sensitively danced by Jennifer A. Cooper and William Petroni, is surprisingly sophisticated in its
careful deployment of formal thematic manipulations in the service of emotional expression.
-- Lisa Jo Sagolla, "Open 24 Hours Dance Company", Back Stage, September 1, 1998
The approach may seem abecedarian today, but his was among the first endeavors of the sort.
-- Jennifer Liese, "May 1973", ArtForum, May 2003
It is also quite abecedarian in that it presents introductory material apt to be known by all
linguists and Semitists.
-- Alan S. Kaye, "Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew", Journal of the American Oriental Society,
January 1, 1994
Columba's poem is fittingly 'abecedarian', each stanza starts with a subsequent letter of the
alphabet -- a harbinger of the Scottish appetite for cataloguing, and delight in craft.
-- WN Herbert, "A rhyme and a prayer", Scotland on Sunday, December 10, 2000

Abecedarian derives from Latin abecedarius, from the first four letters of the alphabet.

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for abecedarian

obviate \OB-vee-ayt\, transitive verb:

To prevent by interception; to anticipate and dispose of or make unnecessary.

After lunch he packed and stepped into the shower: Ronald Rosenthal spent a good portion of his
life in planes and he knew that hot water immediately before and after a flight obviated most of
its bad effects.
-- Neil Gordon, The Gun Runner's Daughter
It is reasonable to assume that Martin acquired the most basic skills of the rural gentleman:
horse-riding, elementary sword-play and the minor degree of literacy that compulsory attendance
at divine service encouraged were all requirements that preceded -- even obviated -- the need
for a more formal education.
-- James McDermott, Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan Privateer
On the positive side, a flood of cheap imports could help hold down inflation and obviate the
need for higher interest rates.
-- Richard W. Stevenson and David E. Sanger, "Asian CrisisCould Wreak Havoc on Balance of
Trade", New York Times, December 20, 1997

Obviate derives from Latin obviare, "to meet or encounter," from ob viam, "placed or coming in
the way" (ob, "in front of"; via, "way").

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for obviate

toper \TOH-puhr\, noun:

One who drinks frequently or to excess.

Although he was no toper, God forbid, he took a glass of aquavit . . . .

-- Isaac Bashevis Singer, Reaches of Heaven
But there remains a core of bottom-line voters to whom the promise of tax cuts is as seductive as
gin to a toper.
-- David Nyhan, "Tax cuts for all - wheee!", Boston Globe, January 21, 2000
You may walk around a bar with a big mug of beer . . . , but if you sloshed it all over a fellow
toper, you'd pay the cleaning bill.
-- Randy Cohen, "At Random: Everyday Ethics", Chicago Tribune, June 10, 2003

Toper is formed from the verb tope, "to drink," originally an interjection used in proposing a toast,
from French tope!, "agreed!" from toper, "to cover a stake in playing at dice, to accept an offer, to

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for toper

clarion \KLAIR-ee-uhn\, noun:

1. A kind of trumpet having a clear and shrill note.

2. The sound of this instrument or a sound similar to it.
3. Sounding like the clarion; loud and clear.

His voice and laugh, which perpetually re-echoed through the Custom-House, had nothing of the
tremulous quaver and cackle of an old man's utterance; they came strutting out of his lungs, like
the crow of a cock, or the blast of a clarion.
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Their voices were different; my grandfather's was high and clarion, Freddie's bass was rough,
my father's baritone was mellow and expressive, but they blended so naturally that together they
sounded like one being.
-- Deborah Weisgall, A Joyful Noise
We have it in our power to begin the world over again, wrote Thomas Paine in Common Sense
(1776), his clarion call for American independence.
-- Robert Famighetti, "et al. (Editor(s))", The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1999
Others will decide that the disaster is a clarion call to spend more time with their families or
finally pursue some personal goal.
-- Susan Chandler, "Shaken consumers come back", Chicago Tribune, September 16, 2001

Clarion comes from Medieval Latin clario, clarion-, from Latin clarus, "clear."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for clarion

deign \DAYN\, intransitive verb:

1. To think worthy; to condescend -- followed by an infinitive.

2. To condescend to give or bestow; to stoop to furnish; to grant.

Not until I pour vodka on his shirt does he deign to acknowledge my existence.
-- Jay McInerney, Model Behavior
Maybe the President does not deign to read op-ed pages, but his speechwriters surely do.
-- William Safire, "The Wrong Way.", New York Times, June 14, 1999
Like most healthy, normal people (if you deign to categorize yourself that way), you are probably
fraught with worry so intense these days you are sleeping standing up with your eyes open.
-- Lisa Napoli, "Every Little Thing's Gonna Be All Right!", New York Times, December 14, 1996

Deign comes from Old French deignier, "to regard as worthy," from Latin dignari, from dignus,
"worthy." It is related to dignity, "the quality or state of being worthy."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for deign

tenet \TEN-it\, noun:

Any opinion, principle, dogma, belief, or doctrine that a person holds or maintains as true.

. . .the tenet that all men are created equal and seen as such by the eyes of God.
-- Kaye Gibbons, On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon
This kind of tolerance and receptivity is itself a cardinal tenet of Enlightenment thought.
-- Gary B. Nash, History on Trial
Since the 1950s, the central tenet of US foreign policy and security strategy had been to
"contain" the Soviet Union and communist domination and influence.
-- George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed
The central tenet of whig theory was the inevitability of progress.
-- William L. Bird Jr., Better Living

Tenet comes from Latin tenet "he holds" (something as true), from tenere, "to hold."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for tenet

autochthonous \aw-TOK-thuh-nuhs\, adjective:

1. Aboriginal; indigenous; native.

2. Formed or originating in the place where found.

For cultures are not monoliths. They are fragmentary, patchworks of autochthonous and foreign
-- Anthony Pagden, "Culture Wars", The New Republic, November 16, 1998
I thought of the present-day Arcadians, autochthonous, sprung from the very earth on which
they live, who with every draught from a stream drink up millennia of history and legend.
-- Zachary Taylor, "Hot Land, Cold Water", The Atlantic, June 17, 1998

Autochthonous derives from Greek autochthon, "of or from the earth or land itself," from auto-,
"self" + chthon, "earth." One that is autochthonous is an autochthon.

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for autochthonous

expunge \ik-SPUNJ\, transitive verb:

1. To strike out, erase, or mark for deletion; to obliterate; as, "to expunge words, lines, or
2. To wipe out or destroy; to annihilate.

And when the Russian moon program was finally abandoned, the Kremlin spent considerable
effort to expunge it from history.
-- Bill Keller, "Eclipsed", New York Times Magazine, June 27, 1999
Not only were new data added, but over the centuries old errors were expunged.
-- Stephen J. Pyne, How the Canyon Became Grand
All one wants for this exceptional woman is that she be granted 10,000 joys to expunge all the
sorrows that have been her life's companion.
-- Penny Perrick, "A non-person's odyssey", Times (London), May 6, 2000

Expunge is from Latin expungere, "to prick out, to mark (with dots) for deletion," from ex-, "out of,
from" + pungere, "to prick."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for expunge

dour \DOO-uhr; DOW-uhr\, adjective:

1. Harsh; stern.
2. Unyielding; inflexible; obstinate.
3. Marked by ill humor; gloomy; sullen.

John James Ruskin's dinner table was far too lively for the dour John La Touche.
-- Tim Hilton, John Ruskin: The Later Years
Father Greeley, who had been studying Church leaders for years, said it was the first time he had
ever seen the dour Cardinal Jean Villot, head of the Vatican bureaucracy, laugh.
-- Jonathan Kwitny, Man of the Century
We don't want people to come out with a dour face, he said. "It is going to be fun with a capital
-- Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie, Changing Places

Dour probably comes from Latin durus, "hard, stern, severe."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for dour

perforce \pur-FORS\, adverb:

By necessity; by force of circumstance.

It will be an astonishing sight, should it come to pass, and even those of us who have followed
every twist and turn of this process will perforce rub our eyes.
-- "Unionists sit tight as the poker game nears its climax", Irish Times, July 10, 1999
. . .the error of supposing that, because everything indeed is not right with the world, everything
must accordingly be wrong with the world; the error of supposing that, because we are plainly not
a race of angels, we must perforce be a race of beasts.
-- James Gardner, "Infinite Jest (book reviews)", National Review, June 17, 1996

Perforce comes from French par force, "by force."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for perforce

clerisy \KLER-uh-see\, noun:

The well educated class; the intelligentsia.

The clerisy of a nation, that is, its learned men, whether poets, or philosophers, or scholars.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Table-Talk
Our academic clerisy, I'm sure, could point out factual inadequacies, along with examples of
cultural bias.
-- Robert D. Kaplan, "And Now for the News", The Atlantic, March 1997
Our clerisy contains journalists and pundits and think-tank experts and political historians.
-- Michael Lind, "Defrocking the Artist", New York Times, March 14, 1999

Clerisy is from German Klerisei, "clergy," from Medieval Latin clericia, from Late Latin clericus,
"priest," from Late Greek klerikos, "belonging to the clergy," from Greek kleros, "inheritance, lot,"
in allusion to Deuteronomy 18:2 ("Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren:
the Lord is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them").

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for clerisy

empyrean \em-py-REE-uhn; -PEER-ee-\, noun:

1. The highest heaven, in ancient belief usually thought to be a realm of pure fire or light.
2. Heaven; paradise.
3. The heavens; the sky.
4. Of or pertaining to the empyrean of ancient belief.

She might have been an angel arguing a point in the empyrean if she hadn't been, so completely,
a woman.
-- Edith Wharton, "The Long Run", The Atlantic, Feburary 1912
In the poem -- one he had the good sense finally to abandon -- he pictured himself as a blind
moth raised among butterflies, which for a brief moment had found itself rising upward into the
empyrean to behold "Great horizons and systems and shores all along," only to find its wings
crumpling and itself falling -- like Icarus -- back to earth.
-- Paul Mariani, The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane
In my experience, the excitement generated by a truly fresh and original piece of writing is the
rocket fuel that lifts Grub Street's rackety skylab -- with its grizzled crew of editors, publishers,
agents, booksellers, publicists -- into orbit in the empyrean.
-- Robert McCrum, "Young blood", The Observer, August 26, 2001

Empyrean comes from Medieval Latin empyreum, ultimately from Greek empurios, from en-, "in"
+ pyr, "fire."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for empyrean

adage \AD-ij\, noun:

An old saying, which has obtained credit by long use; a proverb.

Did she sense the proverbial limp in my walk: proverbial as the Somali adage in which it is said
that a lie has a lame leg, truth a healthy one.
-- Nuruddin Farah, Secrets
We may find out too late the wisdom of the adage that cautions us to be careful what we wish for
lest we get it.
-- Charles Murray, What It Means to Be a Libertarian
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, the old adage goes.
-- Zachary Karabell, "No Left Turn", New York Times, September 24, 2000

Adage derives from the Latin adagium (akin to aio, "I say").

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for adage

limpid \LIM-pid\, adjective:

1. Characterized by clearness or transparency; clear; as, "a limpid stream."

2. Calm; untroubled; serene.
3. Clear in style; easily understandable.

Claire's large eyes are a limpid, liquid blue that reflect the ambient world.
-- Margaret A. Salinger, Dream Catcher
Lying on the sand one limpid afternoon, Margarita-drowsed, gazing out at the turquoise water
through half-closed eyes, following the seaweed swaying back and forth just beneath the surface,
I fancied (as any self-respecting writer must do) that it would be my turn to write a book about
Mexico some day.
-- Neil Baldwln, Legends of the Plumed Serpent
I have no interest in the German Romantics, or indeed in any other kind of romantic, with or
without a literary status, but the stories seemed limpid, accessible.
-- Anita Brookner, Undue Influence
Limpid is from Latin limpidus, "clear."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for limpid

specious \SPEE-shuhs\, adjective:

1. Apparently right; superficially fair, just, or correct, but not so in reality; as, "specious reasoning;
a specious argument."
2. Deceptively pleasing or attractive.

None of those alleged crises really is. They all rest on specious claims about financial
abstractions, on scare stories about impending bankruptcy.
-- James K. Galbraith, Created Unequal
A specious theory is confuted by this free and perfect experiment.
-- Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
His descendant later took great pride in these specious titles, and Hawthorne humorously
addressed him as "the Count."
-- Edward L. Widmer, Young America

Specious is from Latin speciosus, from species, "appearance," from specere, "to look at."

Dictionary.com Entry and Pronunciation for specious