On the SAT vocab list: cower

Cow face, facing viewer
“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to ME? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.”

What does cower mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word cower

First, before you read about the word cower, try this quick vocab quiz:

cower most nearly means

(A) respect
(B) tempt
(C) cringe
(D) enjoy
(E) hate

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word cower.

Part of Speech of cower

cower is a VERB.

Pronunciation of cower

Here’s how to pronounce cower:

IPA: /ˈkau.ər/

Glossary-style: [KOW-uhr]

Definition of cower

cower means: show fear by cringing or shrinking back, especially by making oneself physically smaller and more distant.

Explain more about cower, please

If you cower, you show fear by crouching or pulling back. cowering is similar to cringing, but cringe can also be used for feelings of disgust or embarrassment, not just fear.

Example of cower

Here’s the word cower used in a sentence:

Some animals protect themselves by cowering in fear when threatened; this approach may be less successful for humans when confronting bullies.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Challenge SAT vocab: reticent

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin
“Lefty loosey, righty tighty, lefty loosey, righty tighty. I won’t forget this, I won’t. Lefty loosey, righty tighty…”

What does reticent mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word reticent

First, before you read about the word reticent, try this quick vocab quiz:

reticent most nearly means

(A) diverse
(B) angry
(C) happy
(D) reserved
(E) drenched

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word reticent.

Part of Speech of reticent

reticent is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation of reticent

Here’s how to pronounce reticent:

IPA: /ˈrɛ.tə.sənt/

Glossary-style: [REH-tuh-suhnt]

Definition of reticent

reticent means: inclined to keep one’s thoughts or personal matters to oneself; reserved.

Explain more about reticent, please

reticent sounds like a pretty complicated word, but it simply means that you’re not the type of person to draw attention to yourself. If you’re reticent, then you tend to keep quiet, keep your feelings to yourself, etc.

Example of reticent

Here’s the word reticent used in a sentence:

As a youth, Noah craved attention and told the world every last detail of his life; as he grew older, however, he became more and more reticent.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

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Challenge SAT vocab: efface

TestMagic Daisy
Hand Blocking Girl's Face with a Blue Sky Backdrop
“I’m effacing my face.” Or, “Is this the back or the front of my hand?”

What does efface mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word efface

First, before you read about the word efface, try this quick vocab quiz:

efface most nearly means

(A) erase
(B) occupy
(C) assist
(D) retrieve
(E) rest

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word efface.

Part of Speech of efface

efface is a VERB.

Pronunciation of efface

Here’s how to pronounce efface:

IPA: /ɪ.ˈfeɪs/

Glossary-style: [ih-FAYS]

Definition of efface

efface means: erase or wipe away (Ex: efface memories). purposely avoid drawing attention to oneself (Ex: the proud parent effaced herself at her child’s birthday party).

Explain more about efface, please

To efface something is simply to erase it or wipe it away. You should notice that there’s a good mnemonic in there–efface and erase rhyme, so just say “efface means erase” in your head a few dozen times, and you should remember this word. We also use the word efface to refer to a way of being humble or not calling attention to oneself. For example, if you make fun of yourself a lot, people might call you “self-effacing”. Finally, note that the etymology of the word efface helps us understand this word better. “face” means, well, “face”–the top surface of something. So if you efface something, you remove the top layer of it (at least etymologically or metaphorically).

Example of efface

Here’s the word efface used in a sentence:

Truly humble people are naturally self-effacing; they don’t feel the need for the spotlight and may actually enjoy seeing others revel in the attention.

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Answer to the quick vocab quiz

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Challenge SAT vocab: relegate

Relegated to the garbage heap in… Jakarta?

What does relegate mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word relegate

First, before you read about the word relegate, try this quick vocab quiz:

relegate most nearly means

(A) cleanse
(B) admit
(C) float
(D) banish
(E) help

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word relegate.

Part of Speech of relegate

relegate is a VERB.

Pronunciation of relegate

Here’s how to pronounce relegate:

IPA: /ˈrɛl.ə.geɪt/

Glossary-style: [REHL-uh-gayt]

Definition of relegate

relegate means: send or assign to an inferior place or situation (Ex: relegated to the back of the classroom). banish, exile.

Explain more about relegate, please

If you relegate somebody to some place, then you send that person to a worse place. For example, if you’re late for a dinner reservation at a nice restaurant, you may be relegated to a cramped table near the kitchen or bathroom.

Example of relegate

Here’s the word relegate used in a sentence:

It would be easy to look at such emerging retailers as Forever 21 and H&M (which sell current fashions at a low cost) and relegate their customer base to the perennially-impoverished student set, but a more charitable interpretation is that these companies are democratizing high fashion.

Discussion: Go on your favorite search engine, and perform a search for relegated to the dustbin/trashcan/ash can/recycling wheelie bin of history, and you’ll see that this phrase has approached cliché status in the English language. Honestly, this phrase is the first I think of as an example when I think of the word “relegate”, so I decided to look up its origins. Now remember, “relegate” basically means something along the lines of “send to a bad or undesirable place”. And for those raised on American English, a “dustbin” is simply what Americans would call a trashcan. Wikipedia, as usual, (currently) has interesting information on the matter, and it appears that the expression originated with Leon Trotsky, the Russian figure instrumental in the 1917 Russian revolution. Trotsky is said to have stated to the exiting Mensheviks (translated from Russian to English, of course), “Go out where you belong–into the ash heap of history.” From this expression has come the stock phrase “relegated to the dustbin (or whatever you may use to collect your refuse) of history” so frequently seen in writing and journalism.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

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Challenge SAT vocab: conundrum

TestMagic Daisy
You can’t trace your finger across a continuous surface. It’s a conundrum!

What does conundrum mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word conundrum

First, before you read about the word conundrum, try this quick vocab quiz:

conundrum most nearly means

(A) danger
(B) reply
(C) occurrence
(D) puzzle
(E) attitude

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word conundrum.

Part of Speech of conundrum

conundrum is a NOUN.

Pronunciation of conundrum

Here’s how to pronounce conundrum:

IPA: /kə.ˈnən.drəm/

Glossary-style: [kuh-NUHN-druhm]

Definition of conundrum

conundrum means: a difficult situation or problem. a complex or difficult question or riddle, especially one whose answer involves a pun or play on words.

Explain more about conundrum, please

A conundrum can refer to a couple of things. Originally, a conundrum referred to a specific kind of riddle (one whose answer was a pun, or play on words). But today, a conundrum can also refer to a situation that does not have an easy solution. Sounds a lot like a dilemma, right? Yes, there is a lot of overlap between the words conundrum, dilemma, enigma, and a few other words.

Example of conundrum

Here’s the word conundrum used in a sentence:

The scandal presented the politician with a tricky conundrum: how could he support his former allies without ruining his reputation?

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Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Challenge SAT vocabulary: aghast

What does aghast mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word aghast

Edvard, whenever I’m aghast, I think of you.

First, before you read about the word aghast, try this quick vocab quiz:

aghast most nearly means

(A) lonely
(B) shocked
(C) tired
(D) heavy
(E) sad

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word aghast.

Part of Speech of aghast

aghast is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation aghast

Here’s how to pronounce aghast:

IPA: /ə.ˈgæst/

Glossary-style: [uh-GAHST]

Definition of aghast

aghast means: shocked, terrified, or struck with fear or dread.

Explain more about aghast, please

If you are aghast, you are simply surprised or shocked about something. For example, if you see something very violent, you might well feel aghast.

Example of aghast

Here’s the word aghast used in a sentence:

I was aghast when I saw a ghost, which actually turned out to be my little brother wearing a bed sheet.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Challenge SAT word: aplomb

What does aplomb mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word aplomb

First, before you read about the word aplomb, try this quick vocab quiz:

aplomb most nearly means

(A) ailment
(B) segment
(C) force
(D) confidence
(E) strength

US Navy Utilitiesman James Tofil uses a plumb bob to make sure that the grade beams are plumb before the concrete is poured

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word aplomb.

Part of Speech of aplomb

aplomb is a(n) NOUN.

Pronunciation aplomb

Here’s how to pronounce aplomb:

IPA: /ə.ˈplɒm/

Glossary-style: [uh-PLOM]

Definition of aplomb

aplomb means: confidence and poise, especially under pressure (Ex: handled the situation with aplomb).

Explain more about aplomb, please

aplomb may sound like a hard word, but it’s actually pretty easy to understand–it simply means confidence that you have, especially in a stressful situation.

For example, we admire it when leaders handle difficult situations with aplomb and don’t lose their heads, freak out, etc.

Example of aplomb

Here’s the word aplomb used in a sentence:

It takes years of experience to build up the confidence necessary to face difficult circumstances with aplomb, but having the ability to do so is necessary for any great leader.

Discussion: ‘plumb bob’ has always been one of my favorite words, partly because I like tools, but also because the word just sounds funny. If you’ve never had to use a plumb bob, it’s basically a heavy weight tied to the end of a string. You hold one end of the string so that the weight pulls the string in a straight line, right towards the center of the Earth (it’s gravity, after all, that is at work here). Why would you need to use a plumb bob? If you’re building a house, you may need to use one to find the spot on the floor that is directly below a certain spot on the ceiling. Or, if you’re a bicyclist like me, you may need to use one sometimes to make sure that your saddle is adjusted properly in relation to the pedals–you hold one end of the string at the ‘nose’ of your saddle, and slide the saddle back and forth along its rails to make sure it’s not too far forward or back.

So what does this have to do with confidence? A lot, actually, at least in our word ‘aplomb’. The word ‘plumb’ in English ultimately comes from the Latin ‘plumbum’, which means lead (as in the metal, and yes, that’s right chemistry students–‘Pb’ comes from ‘plumbum’). While it’s not necessary to use lead as your weight, traditionally plumb bobs have been made with lead (although I’ve seen wooden and plastic plumb bobs as well). With all of this in mind, think of the related word ‘plumb’, which means more or less to measure the depth of something, as water. How would you measure the depth of a well? Well (no pun intended), a strong string with a heavy weight on it would be an excellent tool for the job.

Finally, ‘aplomb’ comes from the French ‘plomb’, which means perpendicular. See the connection? We use a heavy weight (often made of lead) to create a perpendicular line; if you have aplomb, you are balanced, in control, and confident. Just think of a person who is able to remain standing upright on a bobbing boat, and you’ll have the idea of ‘aplomb’.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz