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

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