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SAT vocabulary: allegory

What does allegory mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word allegory

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

allegory most nearly means

(A) end
(B) poem
(C) denouement
(D) metaphor
(E) error

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 allegory.

Part of Speech of allegory

allegory is a NOUN.

Pronunciation of allegory

Here’s how to pronounce allegory:

IPA: /ˈæ.lə.gɔ.ri/

Glossary-style: [AH-luh-goh-ree]

Definition of allegory

allegory means: a story that uses characters and events to represent important ideas about life, morals, and the like. an extended metaphor. a symbol that represents something.

Explain more about allegory, please

An allegory is a story that represents something different from what the story actually tells. For example, you may have read many fables that have animals as characters. In a well-known fable, a girl is walking to the market to sell her eggs. On the way there, she starts thinking about all the things she can do with the money she thinks that she will earn. Unfortunately, the eggs break, and she cannot earn any money from selling them. The moral of this story–don’t count your eggs before they hatch–means that we should not count on good things to happen if we’re not sure that they will happen. In this case, the girl represents all of us, and her dreams of earning money represents our hopes. This story, as well as many others like this, can be considered allegories.

Example of allegory

Here’s the word allegory used in a sentence:

The famed fable The Tortoise and the Hare, in which an arrogant hare loses a footrace to a much slower tortoise, is an allegory about the importance of patience and the effects of being too confident of one’s abilities.

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

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!

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SAT vocabulary: misanthrope

Illustration of the vocabular word "misanthrope" using Ebenezer Scrooge
Cheer up, you miserly misanthrope. You have a happy ending.


What does “misanthrope” mean?

Part of Speech: NOUN

Pronunciations: IPA: /ˈmɪs.ən.θroup/ Glossary-style: [MIHS-uhn-throap]

Definition: someone who does not like or does not trust people in general (Ex: After years in prison, the criminal became a misanthrope.).

Example: Vochestra joked that she’d become a misanthrope if she continued to work at the call center for much longer; after talking to upwards of a hundred angry people a day, she found that she had started to develop a knee-jerk response to anybody who tried to strike up a conversation with her. So she quit.

Discussion: Of course we think of the root “anthro”, which means man, when we hear this word, as it’s a fairly common word root (anthropology, anthropomorphize, and philanthropy, to name a few).

A misanthrope, also called a misanthropist, is someone who dislikes or avoids people, whether because he just does not like others or because he mistrusts other people.

I honestly don’t believe that there are any true (sane) misanthropes. As my students have asked after learning the word, “If misanthropes don’t like people, does that mean they don’t like themselves?”

When we think of a misanthrope, we think of someone who’s in a bad mood a lot, or grumpy and unfriendly, and spends time alone.

One of the most famous misanthropes in English literature is Ebenezer Scrooge, the character from Charles Dickens’s 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. Scrooge treated others with disdain and was very reluctant to help others.

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SAT vocabulary: cajole

Picture of a man selling white things to illustrate the vocabulary word "cajole"
Seriously, what ARE those little white bags?


What does “cajole” mean?

Part of Speech: VERB

Pronunciations: IPA: /kə.ˈdʒoul/ Glossary-style: [kuh-JOL]

Definition: persuade or urge someone to do something by repeatedly asking, by teasing, or by using praise or flattery (Ex: I tried to cajole my mother into letting me borrow her car.).

Example: A consummate interrogator, the police detective was able to coax out a confession from the criminal suspect by alternately cajoling and criticizing him.

Discussion: “cajole” is a great word. When we cajole somebody, we bug, nag, whine, annoy, flatter, coax, and wheedle. In a word, we say or do whatever we need to do in order to get what we want.

Children often bug or nag their parents for toys, candy, and the like, but this tecnique is more akin to nagging, whining, and bugging (i.e., asking repeatedly) than it is to cajoling, coaxing, or wheedling. These latter words imply a bit more sophistication than the simple repeated questions, often uttered in a whiny voice, asked by children.

Salespeople might try to cajole prospective customers into buying something. For example, a salesman trying to sell a gym membership might say to the interested person, “You look to be in great shape already, and you’d fit right in here. We could help you maintain your great physique!”

That’s an example of cajolement. An insincere, transparent example, but that’s the idea.

A couple of related notes: “cajole” can use the preposition “into” when it’s used in the same sense as to “talk someone into doing something”. And “cajole” is ultimately etymologically related to the Old French verb “gaioler”, which means to lure into a cage. This is interested to me, as I know from my time studying Portuguese that a “gaiola” is a type of cage, especially a bird cage.

I tell you, if you live long enough, it all starts to come together.

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SAT vocabulary: cavil


What does “cavil” mean?

Part of Speech: VERB and NOUN

Pronunciations: IPA: /ˈkæ.vəl/ Glossary-style: [KAH-vuhl]

Definition: verb: complain about unimportant things, especially in order to avoid the point of an argument; raise trivial or frivolous objections to an argument (Ex: to cavil about unimportant details). noun: complaint or criticism, often minor or trivial.

Example: The customer, trying to haggle with the salesperson over the price of the television set, started caviling over the color of the cables, whether anyone would help him carry the box to his car, and whether it would match the décor of his living room.

Discussion: To cavil is simply to argue about things that don’t matter that much, especially when you’re trying to avoid the major point. For example, if you know you’re losing an argument, you might start caviling about tangential, frivolous, or irrelevant details. “cavil” can also be a noun meaning trivial objections, or small things that don’t matter that much, at least in the grand scheme of things. For example, if you’re in a bad mood, feeling grumpy, grouchy, or irritable, you might have many cavils, e.g., “It’s too hot in here!” “I’m hungry!” “I want a straw with my water!” and on and on.

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SAT vocabulary: prudent

Image of a yellow hard hat with the word "prudent"
Be prudent and protect that precious cranium of yours.


What does “prudent” mean?

Part of Speech: adjective

Pronunciations: IPA: /ˈpru.dnt/ Glossary-style: [PROO-dnt]

Definition: wise, intelligent, or careful in practical matters. careful about making decisions and about how one behaves.

Example: During times of financial hardship, people should make prudent decisions about how to spend their money and avoid such indulgences as eating out and going on vacation.

Discussion: “prudent” is a fairly common word, so you should be familiar with it. When we describe someone as prudent, we are saying that that person is generally careful or cautious and tends to make good judgements. A prudent person would be also be careful to adhere to social customs defining behavior. The prudent way of doing things tends to be the safest way, so prudence is not a quality greatly admired in such professions as gambling, managing hedge funds, acting, and magic. (Of course, there are exceptions.)

Some examples: Depositing money into a savings account is more prudent than buying lottery tickets. Majoring in Engineering is probably more prudent than studying Philosophy if you’re eager to land a conventional, well-paying right after you graduate from college. (I was a liberal arts major in college, just for the record.) Bicycling on a busy highway with traffic is not prudent, nor is jaywalking.

N.B. While it may seem that the word “prudent” and “prude” are etymologically related since each word connotes a sense of reservation, they are not. The former derives from the Latin “providere”, which means, not surprisingly, provide, while the latter derives from the Old French “prud”, which means virtuous or proud.

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SAT vocabulary: expatiate

Challenge vocabulary word "expatiate" - George  W. Bush Speech


What does “expatiate” mean?

Part of Speech: Verb

Pronunciations: IPA: /ɛk.ˈspeɪ.ʃi.eɪt/ Glossary-style: [ehk-SPAY-shee-ayt]

Definition: speak or write at length, especially in detail (Ex: to expatiate on one’s beliefs). roam or wander freely.

Example: Marco explained that he didn’t have the inclination to expatiate on his views of morality and ethics but said rather succinctly that we all have a responsibility to others and that if we can avoid hurting others, we should.

Discussion: “expatiate” is a fairly advanced and uncommon word, not likely to be heard in everyday speech.

The etymology of the word sheds some light on its meaning, though. “expatiate” ultimately derives from the Latin “spatium”, which simply means space. So, to expatiate usually means to speak at length and in detail, but is sometimes used to mean to wander around at will.

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SAT vocabulary: incipient

Ultrasound Scan illustrating the vocabulary word incipient.
There is very little more wonderful than incipient life.


What does “incipient” mean?

Part of Speech: adjective

Pronunciations: IPA: /ɪn.ˈsɪ.pi.ənt/ Glossary-style: [ihn-SIH-pee-uhnt]

Definition: starting to exist or appear; initial; beginning (Ex: an incipient problem).

Example: Because they believed it best to handle incipient problems as soon as they arise, city officials took the growing unrest seriously and scheduled meetings with community leaders to address the problems before they worsened.

Discussion: We often use the word “incipient” to refer to the early stages of the development of something that we expect to have at least a few more stages. The word connotes something young, developing, or growing, i.e., something not fully mature.

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SAT vocabulary: voluble

Vocab word "voluble" - Male talking on cell phone (Cartoon)
I just love jabbering away on the phone.


What does “voluble” mean?

Part of Speech: adjective

Pronunciations: IPA: /ˈval.yə.bəl/ Glossary-style: [VA-yuh-buhl]

Definition: having the ability to speak or talk easily; talkative; glib (Ex: a voluble salesperson). easily turning or rotating.

Example: During my time living in Rio de Janeiro, I noticed that people at the local markets tended to be much more voluble than the people in American supermarkets; in American supermarkets, for example, it would be considered somewhat unusual to comment on the quality of the oranges to anyone who happened to be nearby, whereas in Brazil, no one would think twice about the uninvited remark.

Discussion: If someone is voluble, she essentially talks freely and easily. Voluble people tend to be well-liked, as they have “the gift of gab”.

On a personal note, while living in Brazil, I noticed a definite difference in the volubility of Brazilians and Americans. Brazilians tend to talk much more than the Americans that I grew up with, and further, many Brazilians have commented to me that they find Americans much more reserved than Brazilians. I don’t mean to stereotype, and there are certainly many, many exceptions to these broad generalizations, and of course, all such observations are subjective. For example, while living in Brazil, many of my students and friends told me that I was fairly reserved, while the Russians, French, Eastern European, and Asian students and friends I’ve had have told me that I’m very outgoing and talkative, a quality I’ve frequently heard attributed to Americans by some. So, to use some good challenge vocabulary, some people call us Americans (and me specifically) voluble while others label us (and me) taciturn.

And don’t forget your mnemonics! (A good “mnemonic device” can help you learn vocabulary quickly.) To help you remember this word, you might think of turning up the “volume” of your music, which would make it louder. While a voluble person isn’t necessarily loud, she certainly would attract more attention.

A related point—yes, “voluble” and “volume” are etymologically related, both deriving ultimately from the Latin “volvere”, which means to turn.

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SAT vocabulary: berate

Man yelling at woman, illustrating the vocabulary word "berate"
What do you mean you ate all the ice cream?


What does “berate” mean?

Part of Speech: verb

Pronunciations: IPA: /bə.ˈrɛɪt/ Glossary-style: [buh-RAYT]

Definition: criticize, reprimand, or scold, especially angrily and for longer than usual (Ex: berate someone for selfish, thoughtless behavior).

Example: Every morning during rush hour in cities all over the world, drivers berate other drivers from the safe anonymity of their automobiles.

Discussion: “berate” is a fairly strong word, and it was a bit challening for me to come up with a friendly example that didn’t involve scolding children, students, empolyees, etc. So, in the example above, I described a phenomenon that most drivers have experienced, that of feeling anger while driving because another driver has committed some wrong, broken a traffic law, or taken a risk that puts others at risk. For example, most of us don’t like it when we get cut off by others in traffic, especially when we’re in a rush, right? So many people “vent” their anger in their cars by yelling, shaking their fists, and the like. But quite often, these people would not do the same thing were they not protected by their cars.

In a word, berating refers to expressing one’s anger in a rather hostile way. More colloquially, at least in the United States, we may talk about lecturing people or ranting. For example, “Every time I get an A?, my mother lectures me about how important it is to pay attention in school, do my best, respect my teachers, blah, blah, blah.”

Nobody likes being berated, scolded, lectured, or ranted at. No matter how old we are, being on the receiving end always makes us feel like children, don’t you think?

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List of axioms

A list of axioms

See the definition of axiom.

I like to make lists, and I think that examples help people learn very quickly. So here is a quick list of some axioms.

  • The “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Similarly: It is better to give than to receive.
  • No one is perfect. All humans are fallible. We all make mistakes.
  • In American journalism: “Get it first, but get it right.” In American nighttime television news: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
  • In economics: The greater the supply of a product, the lower the cost to the buyer, and conversely, the greater the demand for an item, the higher the cost to the buyer.
  • In history, researchers should investigate any source that they find. But they should be treat none of them as gospel.
  • As a teacher, I have a few axioms: If you don’t assign deadlines, most students will not complete work. If students aren’t tested on material, they will be less inclined to study it. If a teacher comes late to class, the students will also tend to come late.
  • Mathematical principles: A point has no dimensions. A line has one dimension only with an infinite number of points. A plane is a flat surface with only two dimensions and contains an infinite number of points and lines.
  • From Peter Straub and Stephen King’s 1984 book The Talisman: “Boys are bad. All boys are bad. It’s axiomatic.”
Please add your own axioms in the comments below. :)