culvert - A culvert is a drain — but not of the kinds that drain your bathtub or empties your bank account. A culvert is any kind of channel or tunnel that directs unwanted water away from roads and other corridors of travel.
buoyant - Something that is buoyant floats in water. Since floating is happier than sinking, buoyant also refers to things are fun and upbeat.
lollop - To lollop is to walk or run in an awkward, galloping way. Energetic, long-legged puppies tend to lollop around, stumbling and leaping as they go.
delicacy - A ballerina's quick, perfect steps? An antique porcelain teacup? A tiny sentence etched inside a silver locket? All of these have delicacy, or fineness that comes from being light, beautiful, or small.
warren - When Bugs Bunny outruns Elmer Fudd and vanishes down his rabbit hole, he's escaping into a warren — a network of underground tunnels where rabbits live.
nettle - If you know what a nettle is—it's a plant with stinging hairs—then you'll have no trouble remembering the verb nettle: it means to annoy, bother, irritate, or bedevil.
detachment - A state of being distant or standoffish is detachment. Your detachment might mean that you don't cry on the last day of school with all your friends — you're just not that emotionally involved.
snare - A snare is a trap, usually for small animals, and using a noose. Snare can also mean to trap in general or any type of trap, like the snare of a TV cliffhanger that traps you into watching again.
indifference - indifference is the trait of lacking interest or enthusiasm in things. When you feel indifference for something, you neither like it nor dislike it.
sentry - A sentry is someone who stands guard or watches against some intrusion or unwelcome activity. Your dog stands sentry over your house, but he would be more effective if he barked at strangers instead of licking their hands.
wary - Describe yourself as wary if you don't quite trust someone or something and want to proceed with caution. Be wary of risky things like wild mushrooms and Internet deals!
imminent - Something that is imminent is just about to happen: if you light a firecracker and then stick it down your pants, a very bad situation is imminent.
devolve - You've probably heard that organisms evolve over time. Well, life is complicated, and sometimes things devolve instead — to devolve is to get worse instead of better.
straggle - To straggle is to veer from a route, or to wander aimlessly behind everyone else. If you plan to go to the movies but end up at a store and then a friend's house, you straggled. Straggling is a type of digressing — to straggle is to get sidetracked. In the military, straggling often means to stay on leave too long or be in the wrong position for a battle. When people straggle, they've gone off-course.
impudent - An impudent person is bold, sassy, and shameless. If your teacher asks the class to open their textbooks, and you snap back, "Let's not and say we did," you're being impudent.
discern - If you can make out, pick out, or distinguish something, you can discern it. This is a word for recognizing and perceiving things.
sodden - Pull out your galoshes. When it's been raining for days, there are puddles everywhere, and the grass is thoroughly soaked, it's safe to say the ground is sodden.
undaunted - If you're undaunted, you're not afraid or intimidated. As a great surfer, you remain undaunted as you seek out dangerous waters to ride the biggest waves.
stupefied - If something leaves you stupefied it has made you so astonished you can't speak or even really think. When your husband backs over your foot, and then drives back over it trying to get out of the way, and in the process hits the front of the house, you might feel stupefied.
propitious - When the timing of something is propitious, it's likely to turn out well. A propitious time for taking a big test is when you've studied hard and had a good night's sleep.
raucous - Raucous means unpleasantly loud, or behaving in a noisy and disorderly way. It can be hard to give an oral report in the front of a classroom when the kids in the back are being raucous.
verge - Think of an edge, a border, a boundary, and you are thinking about the verge, the point where something begins or ends.
dapple - To dapple is to dot with blotches of color or light, the way sunlight dapples the leaves of trees in the summertime.
ubiquitous - It's everywhere! It's everywhere! When something seems like it's present in all places at the same time, reach for the adjective ubiquitous.
fledgling - A fledgling is a fuzzy baby bird just learning to fly, or someone (like a baby bird) who's brand new at doing something. Awww.
furtive - If you're looking for a formal adjective to describe something sly or secret, sneak in furtive. Let's hope the teacher doesn't see your furtive attempts to pass notes in class!
copse - A copse is a thicket of bushes or a small stand of trees. A copse of trees can provide a good hiding place during a game of hide-and-seek.
CHAPTERS 11 - 17
tussock - A tussock is a clump or tuft of something, like the tussock of grass at the top of a hill.
bedraggled - If you're bedraggled, you're dishevelled, limp, and tired. Many people are a bit bedraggled after a very long plane flight.
torpid - While the adjective torpid sounds a lot like the noun torpedo, it actually describes something slow or even inactive, like the torpedo that's just sitting around before it's launched.
intermittent - Reach for the adjective intermittent to describe periodic movement and stopping and starting over a period of time.
indolence - If your boss catches you sleeping with your head on your desk, she's likely to comment on your indolence. Indolence is another word for laziness.
vagabond - A vagabond is someone who moves around a lot. Picture Boxcar Willie, bandana on a stick thrown over his shoulder, going wherever the breeze takes him.
melancholy - Melancholy is beyond sad: as a noun or an adjective, it's a word for the gloomiest of spirits.
lassitude - If you are feeling lassitude, you're weary and just can't be bothered. Couch potatoes make lassitude into an art form.
candid - Straightforward and truthful talk might be described with the adjective candid. If you're always candid, your parents will know that they can trust you.
pensive - See that person staring out the window who looks so sad and lost in thought? He is pensive, the opposite of cheery and carefree.
frond - A compound leaf — that is, a leaf with many fine and deep divisions — is a frond, such as on ferns and palm trees.
plausible - If something is plausible, it's reasonable or believable. Things that are plausible could easily happen. A woman becoming President is very plausible. A giraffe becoming President is not.
staunch - As an adjective, staunch means firm. You might want to go to that concert Friday night, but your parents' staunch opposition prevents you.
reciprocal - Reciprocal describes something that's the same on both sides. If you and your sister are in a big fight on a long car trip, you might resolve it through a reciprocal agreement that you'll stop poking her and she'll stop reading road signs out loud.
opulent - Opulent is a word that you will hear a lot around rich people looking to show off. "Remember the opulent buffet at Carrie’s sweet sixteen? Sixteen chocolate cakes iced in gold leaf!"
concourse - The wide, open area that's either inside or in front of a building is called a concourse. A concourse is often located where many paths or hallways meet.
blithe - The adjective blithe used to mean happy and carefree, but over time it has also come to describe someone who isn't paying attention the way they should.
redolent - When something is redolent of something, it makes you think of that thing by making a pretty strong impression on you. He had a shifty eye redolent of years of lying and petty crime.
gregarious - If you know someone who's outgoing, sociable, and fond of the company of others, you might want to call her gregarious.
muster - Originally meaning "to gather soldiers," muster has been expanded to include gathering up just about anything — you can muster up some dinner, some friends, or even some ketchup, pickles and mustard.
adroit - Someone who is adroit is clever and skillful. An adroit leader will be able to persuade people to go with his ideas. An adroit sculptor can turn a lump of clay into an object of great beauty.
taut - Taut means tight rather than slack. The tightrope ought to be taut and not dangling down by the lion cage.
lacerate - The verb lacerate means to cut or tear. So the envelope that gave you that nasty paper cut? It lacerated your finger.
flaccid - If something is limp, loose, droopy, and wrinkly, you can call it flaccid, which rhymes with "acid." Think elephant skin, soggy asparagus, and the type of feeble handshakes frowned on in job interviews.
impiety - Impiety is a disrespect for the sacred. For example, visitors are advised not to wear shorts or tank tops when touring certain churches and cathedrals in Europe, because doing so is viewed as impiety by those who worship there.
larder - When your mother buys groceries, she puts them in the larder or the pantry. A larder is a room or cabinet where you store food.
acquiescence - Acquiescence is an agreement, usually a willingness to go along with what someone else suggests. "Sure, I don't mind," "That sounds like a plan," and "Good idea" — these are all ways to show your acquiescence.
urbane - Urbane people are sophisticated, polished, cultured, refined. Spend enough time in an urban setting–-going to concerts and museums, spending time in crowds––and you'll be urbane too.
CHAPTER 18 - 23
escarpment - You are standing at the foot of a cliff. You look up at the steep, sharp wall of rock above you and realize you are seeing an escarpment. At this moment, you can truly appreciate the power of natural erosion.
precipitous - 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.
minutely - Do something minutely and you'll do it in an attentive or meticulous, careful way. If you minutely edit your English paper, you'll be sure to catch every last mistake.
myriad - A myriad is a lot of something. If you’re talking about Ancient Greece, a myriad is ten thousand, but today you can use the word in myriad other ways.
tenacious - Use tenacious to mean "not easily letting go or giving up," like a clingy child who has a tenacious grip on his mother's hand.
reconnoiter - When you reconnoiter an area, you’re looking around to try to get some kind of feel for the place. It often describes a military action, but you could also reconnoiter the breakroom on the lookout for doughnuts.
fastidious - If you want to describe a person who insists on perfection or pays much attention to food, clothing and cleanliness, the right word is fastidious.
prudence - Use the noun prudence to describe sensible decisions about everyday life, like the prudence of people who spend their money wisely, saving as much as they can.
undulate - Undulate means to move in a wave-like pattern. If a sound increases and decreases in pitch or volume like waves, you can say the sound is undulating. When searching for the lost boy, the rescuers' cries undulated through the forest.
pallid - Santa looks a little pallid, meaning that he has a pale complexion, from spending too much time at the North Pole. A few days in Hawaii might do wonders to add color to his pale, bearded face.
respite - A respite is a break from something that's difficult or unpleasant. If you're cramming for exams, take an occasional walk to give yourself a respite from the intensity.
colonnade - A colonnade is a row of tall columns that support a building or a roof. You might see a colonnade at the front of a museum.
oblique - If something is oblique, it has a slanting position or direction. In figurative use, oblique means indirect or purposely misleading. "What is two plus two?" "Fish!" as an answer is completely oblique.
callousness - Callousness is the characteristic of being insensitive or hardhearted about other people's feelings. Your sister's callousness is clear when she tells you that your new haircut looks awful.
circumscribe - To circumscribe is to limit or restrict. If you spend too much time watching TV instead of fulfilling other obligations, you might circumscribe your TV-watching time to one hour daily (or two hours, if your favorite show is on).
forage - To forage is to wander around looking for food. When it’s cold and snowy outside, birds may forage for food in your backyard, digging around for whatever they can find.
envisage - Martin Luther King Jr. envisaged a time when black and white Americans would no longer be segregated by race. To envisage is to imagine something that does not yet exist.
utilitarian - The adjective utilitarian describes something that is useful or functional. If you are attracted to a car for its storage space and gas mileage — as opposed to its sparkly tire rims — then chances are you value a car's utilitarian features.
ductile - If you can bend or shape a substance, especially if it's made of metal, it is ductile. If they can stretch a metal into a thin wire, scientists consider it to be ductile.
insolence - insolence is a rude, disrespectful act. The teenager's insolence got her in trouble with her teachers.
coruscate - Coruscate is a verb that means to sparkle or give off reflected flashes of light. Think of the way the little mirrors on a disco ball coruscate as the ball twirls, making the dance floor sparkle.
patois - The noun patois describes the way you talk, like the patois of New Englanders who tend to drop the letter r: "Drive yah cah to Hahvahd Yahd," while others say, "Drive your car to Harvard Yard."
docile - If someone is docile, he is easily taught or handled. If you suddenly became a trouble-maker in class, your teachers would long for the days when you were sweet and docile.
peremptory - Peremptory comments are like orders. If you say something in a peremptory manner, you want people to stop what they’re doing and do what you say. Peremptory comments put an end to a discussion, and that’s final!
reticence - Reticence is a kind of reserve, wanting to avoid communication and not wanting to offer any more information than is necessary.
squall - A squall is a powerful, usually brief, burst of wind that usually brings rain or snow with it. When a snow squall blows across the mountain, skiers take a break in the ski lodge.
vernacular - Vernacular describes everyday language, including slang, that's used by the people. The vernacular is different from literary or official language: it's the way people really talk with each other, like how families talk at home.
oscillate - On a hot day, you’ll be happy to have a fan that can oscillate, meaning it moves back and forth in a steady motion.
CHAPTER 24 - 29
luminous - Luminous means full of or giving off light. During the winter holidays, with all their emphasis on light, you can see luminous displays of candles everywhere.
knoll - A knoll is a small hill or mound of earth, which makes a shady knoll a perfect spot for a summer picnic.
susurration - The delicate-sounding word susurration comes by its gentleness naturally — it’s a very soft whispering sound that can barely be heard.
vehemence - Something with vehemence is forceful and energetic. If you passionately believe that your neighbor is mistreating his dog, speak to him with vehemence.
chaff - The proverbial phrase "separate the wheat from the chaff" may not be terribly meaningful to you — unless you happen to be a grain farmer. The chaff is the husk surrounding a seed, the part of the grain that is generally thrown away.
intelligible - Use the adjective intelligible to describe speech that is loud and clear, like the intelligible words of your principal which, thanks to a microphone, you were able to hear.
nonchalance - Nonchalance is a casual lack of concern, a relaxed state without anxiety or enthusiasm. Like how you'd act if the girl you've had a secret crush on since grade school asks you to the prom. (Or maybe not.)
dispel - To dispel is to get rid of something that's bothering or threatening you, regardless of whether that's warts, worries, or wild dogs.
propriety - Propriety is following what is socially acceptable in speech and behavior. Your little brother might offend your sense of propriety by burping loudly at the dinner table.
stealthily - If you move stealthily, you do not want to be seen or felt. A cat moves stealthily when it approaches a mouse.
transfixed - If a witch were to appear in front of you in a puff of smoke, you'd probably be transfixed — you'd be standing there with your mouth open, unable to look away, as if held by some magic power.
lichen - Have you ever walked through the woods and seen a crusty-looking shelf growing out of a tree? That is actually a lichen, a complex organism comprised of a fungus and its partner algae, the two parts interweaving to form one.
inert - Something that's unable to move or moving without much energy can be described as inert. Wind up in a body cast and you’ll find yourself not only itchy, but totally inert.
inconsolable - Someone inconsolable can't be comforted because they're extremely sad and despairing.
gossamer - Gossamer is something super fine and delicate — like a spider web or the material of a wedding veil.
amiable - A friendly, pleasant person could be described as amiable. Airline flight attendants tend to be amiable. The people monitoring the school's cafeteria? Maybe not.
livid - If you're livid, you're furious, in a black cloud of anger. The Latin root this word comes from means "bluish-gray" or "slate-colored," and you can also use livid to describe the color, such as a livid bruise or a livid sea.
somber - Somber is used to describe situations, facial expressions, or moods that are dark, gloomy, or depressing. Funerals are usually somber affairs.
gaunt - You can never be too rich or too thin, but you certainly can be too gaunt. It means you look skinny like you're sick, not skinny like you have a personal nutritionist slapping your hand when you reach for a bonbon.
ebb - When something ebbs, it is declining, falling, or flowing away. The best time to look for sea creatures in tidal pools is when the tide is on the ebb — meaning it has receded from the shore.
apparition - If you see something you think might be a ghost, you can call it an apparition to hedge your bets. Apparition doesn't commit you in the same way the word ghost does—and saying that you've seen one won't cause you to be committed.
fidelity - Fidelity is the quality of being faithful or loyal. Dogs are famous for their fidelity.
cryptic - "White bunny. Moon square." Do you understand what that means? Of course not! It's totally cryptic. Cryptic comments or messages are hard to understand because they seem to have a hidden meaning.
tussle - A tussle is a rowdy fight. If the rambunctious kids you're babysitting get into a tussle, you may have to separate them for a while and calm them down.
CHAPTER 30 - 34
recourse - Recourse is a source of help. If you're failing trigonometry in spite of studying until your brain hurts, you may have no recourse but to hire a tutor.
quarry - Both meanings of quarry have to do with going after something. An animal being hunted is called quarry, and when you dig a hole in the earth looking for rocks, both the digging and the hole are called quarry as well.
alight - The word alight has two distinct meanings: it can mean coming down or settling in a delicate manner, such as a bird perching, or it can be a rather poetic way to describe something that’s on fire (or “afire”).
parry - Sword fighters thrust and parry. To thrust is to try to stab, and to parry is to avoid getting stabbed by blocking a thrust. Though it comes from fencing, parry is also handy in dodgeball and awkward conversations
impertinence - You have to be sure your teacher has a good sense of humor before you criticize the way he dresses, otherwise you might be scolded for your impertinence. Impertinence means "being rude, insolent, or inappropriately playful."
lope - Some words are fun to say: lope is one of them. It's also fun to think about, as it means to move with a casual, striding gait. Imagine a horse cantering along with an easy lope. A pleasant image indeed.
inexplicable - Something inexplicable can't be explained. It doesn't make sense. You don't want to come to the beach on the most beautiful day of the year? That's inexplicable!
bemused - If you're bemused, you're muddled or preoccupied. It happens when you're lost in thought, dazed, or overwhelmed (say, on the first day of high school).
paltry - A paltry amount is so small it's not even worth thinking about. In the novel Oliver Twist, when Oliver is given a paltry amount of gruel — not nearly enough — he asks, "Please, sir, can I have some more?"
sable - Sable is a fluffy little animal known for its silky dark brown fur. It’s native to Japan, Siberia, and other parts of northern Asia. You may meet up with a sable in a zoo or as somebody's expensive coat.
azure - Looking for a fancier way to describe the deep blue sky on a crisp fall day or the jewel-toned waters of the Caribbean? Try azure.
lithe - Have you ever seen people who can bend so easily, they can touch their heels to the back of their heads? Those people are, in a word, lithe.
precarious - Grab for the adjective precarious when something is unstable, dangerous or difficult and likely to get worse. Are you totally broke and the people you owe money to keep calling? You're in a precarious financial situation!
thwart - A villain's worst nightmare is the superhero who always seems to thwart his efforts, preventing him from carrying out his plans to take over the world.
impervious - An impervious surface is one that can't be penetrated. The word is often followed by "to," as in "His steely personality made him impervious to jokes about his awful haircut."
circumvent - To circumvent is to avoid. Someone who trains elephants but somehow gets out of picking up after them has found a way to circumvent the cleaning of the circus tent.
liable - If you drive into someone's fence, you’ll probably be held liable — legally responsible — for fixing it. Liable can also mean “likely,” usually with something unpleasant: "If you don't brush your teeth, they're liable to fall out."
foray - Foray means brief excursion. If you're in the army, that's a literal excursion into enemy territory. For the rest of us, it means trying something out. "My foray into rugby ended with my spending a week in the hospital."
emulation - Emulation is the effort to act like someone else. Your emulation of your older brother on the tennis court might create a rivalry between you, as you become a better player.
modest - A person is modest if he or she is very successful but does not call attention to this.
restive - To be restive is to be impatient or on edge — it's an edgy state. When you feel like your skin is too tight and your nerves are ready to snap, when you feel ready to explode, you are restive.
petulant - Choose the adjective petulant to describe a person or behavior that is irritable in a childish way.
bamboozle - To bamboozle is to hoodwink, lead by the nose, or pull the wool over someone's eyes — you're tricking or fooling them.
demoralize - If something demoralizes you, it makes you feel bad or hopeless. When your soccer team was trounced by the last-place team in the league, the loss seemed to demoralize everyone, from players to coaches to fans.
seasoned - Seasoned describes a person who has been around forever, doing what they do, and doing it well — throughout the seasons. They have lots of experience, and they can handle just about anything that comes their way.
nonplussed - If a conversation with someone leaves you scratching your head and wondering what point they were trying to make, you are nonplussed: bewildered, puzzled, often speechless.
CHAPTERS 35 - 38
dispirited - Dispirited means being down in the dumps or depressed. Losing his girlfriend and job on the same day could make someone dispirited — feeling gloomy and absolutely miserable.
stolid - A stolid person can’t be moved to smile or show much sign of life, in much the same way as something solid, like a giant boulder, is immovable. Both are expressionless.
askew - Although it sounds like a sneeze, the word askew means lopsided or turned and tilted to the side. Like your glasses might be after, well, a sneeze.
apathetic - Apathetic is an adjective that describes the feeling of being bored with what’s going on around you. If you don’t care one way or another, you’re apathetic.
listless - To be listless is to be lethargic, low spirited, and limp. If a fever has made you feel listless, you might also feel like you are melting into the sofa.
infirm - To be infirm is to be physically weak. If your great grandmother can't get around without a walker or a wheelchair, you might describe her as infirm
treachery - reachery is trickery, cheating, and deceit, like the treachery of your former friend who only stuck around until he stole your girlfriend and turned the whole grade against you.
cheeky - If you're being cheeky you're being brash or irreverent. If you're a cheeky child, you're probably just being impudent and disrespectful — and you're probably going to get in trouble.
sentimentality - Sentimentality is a quality of being overly, dramatically emotional — sad or loving or nostalgic. Your sentimentality on her eightieth birthday might make your down-to-earth grandmother roll her eyes.
retort - A retort is a short, clever response to someone's comment or question. If you want to keep the peace during dinner, you should probably bite your tongue instead of making sarcastic retorts to everything your little sister says.
rejoinder - A rejoinder usually means a witty comeback. If someone asks you a silly question like, "Are you painting?" when you are holding a paint can and a brush, your rejoinder could be, "No, I'm just doing my nails."
intercept - When you intercept a pass in football, you grab the ball that your opponent had thrown to a member of his own team. To intercept is to stop something from reaching its intended destination.
cadence - The word cadence has its own lovely cadence — rhythm of sound as it's spoken.
unduly - If something is done unduly, it's done out of proportion with what's reasonable or right. If you're unduly treated, you're not treated in the way you deserve to be.
sultry - Stifling, humid and downright oppressive, sultry is an adjective that has everything to do with sweltering heat and a definite need for a tall glass of iced tea.
incessant - Something incessant continues without interruption. When you're on a cross-country flight, it's tough to tolerate the incessant crying of a baby.
ludicrous - Ludicrous things are funny, absurd, or nonsensical. If someone says something silly or far-fetched, you could say "That's ludicrous!"
resolute - Use the adjective resolute to describe a purposeful and determined person, someone who wants to do something very much, and won't let anything get in the way.
lurid - Something lurid is vivid and attention-grabbing in a shocking, graphic, or horrible way. that pulls them in. Your mother might complain that she hates lurid TV shows — ones that are overly sensationalized and meant to shock.
alcove - Chapels in churches are often alcoves. Picture one set off to the side with a vaulted ceiling, separated by pillars and a small railing. See that and you see an alcove, defined.
shard - If you break a mirror, the thin sharp pieces you want to avoid are shards. A shard is simply a broken piece of metal, glass, stone, or pottery with sharp edges.
dissolution - The dissolution of a relationship means that it's broken up or ended. The dissolution of your band means you better get started on your solo album.
flounder - A flounder is a flat fish with both eyes on one side of its head; and, as a verb, to flounder is to wobble around like a fish out of water.
CHAPTERS 39 - 42
girder - A girder is any of the many beams used in buildings and bridges that provide support and actually hold them up.
breadth - If you measure the distance of an object from side to side, you are measuring the object’s breadth: “Theodore measured the breadth of the table before buying it to make sure it would fit in his small kitchen.”
flotsam - Flotsam is the floating wreckage of a ship. You'll often hear it used with the word jetsam, which refers to floating objects that have been thrown from a ship, usually to lighten it before it sinks.
gingerly - If something needs to be done with great care and caution, you should do it gingerly — like gingerly holding a newborn baby or gingerly creeping down the creaky stairs when you're trying to sneak out.
parapet - A parapet originally meant a defensive mini-wall made of earth or stone that was built to protect soldiers on the roof of a fort or a castle. Now it indicates any low wall along the roof of a building, the edge of a balcony, the side of a bridge, or similar structure.
soffit - A soffit is the underside of a part on a building, like a protective covering under the eaves of a house, or the surface of an arch as seen from below.
elation - If you experience sudden very high spirits, possibly even a feeling of lightness, you are feeling great elation.
fetid - If you want to understand the true meaning of fetid, leave your sweaty gym clothes in your locker for a few days. Fetid is a fancy way of saying that something smells really bad.
turbid - If a liquid is dark and murky and you can't see through it, it's turbid. It’s usually used as a criticism — a turbid river is generally a polluted one, but then again a good pint of real ale should be turbid. Go figure.
disconcerted - A concert is a choreographed harmony of sounds but throw the prefix "dis" in front it and you have the opposite: disconcerted — a word used to describe someone whose composure has been disturbed or unsettled.
paradoxical - “You have to spend money to make money.” That’s a paradoxical statement used by people in business, and it seems to say two opposite things that contradict each other, but if you think about it, it’s actually kind of true.
mercurial - Mercurial describes someone whose mood or behavior is changeable and unpredictable, or someone who is clever, lively, and quick. With a mercurial teacher, you never know where you stand.
bivouac - If you ever draped a blanket over bushes or lawn chairs in the backyard and pretended to bunk down under it when you were a kid, you’ve made a bivouac — a temporary, makeshift camp with little or no cover.
tact - To talk carefully without hurting anyone’s feelings, that’s tact. Politicians have tact, which makes them good at speaking about sensitive matters without making fools of themselves. At least, sometimes they have tact.
tawny - A color adjective, tawny describes something that is a mix of yellow, orange, and brown colors. A lion has a beautiful tawny coat.
superlative - A superlative is the highest attainable level or degree of something. As an adjective superlative means highest in quality.
derision - If people are laughing at you, making fun of you, and acting as if you're worthless, they're treating you with derision. Derision is mean and attacking — it's a form of contempt.
uncanny - If something is uncanny, it is so mysterious, strange, or unfamiliar that it seems supernatural. If you hear strange music echoing through your attic, you might refer to it as positively uncanny.
laurel - A laurel is a wreath worn on the head, usually as a symbol of victory. If you see an image of Julius Caesar, chances are he's wearing a laurel.
grovel - To grovel is to beg like a hungry dog. You don't have to be a canine though; you might grovel for a better grade (please don't).
abase - To abase something or someone is to humiliate them — no, more than just humiliate them. If you abase another person you are bringing them low, humbling them in a mean, base manner. Not nice at all.
abject - If it reeks of humiliation or looks like the lowest of lows, then you can safely describe it as abject.
mendicant - People who live off begging can be called mendicants. However, you probably wouldn't call your kids mendicants, even though they beg you for stuff, because the word mendicant also implies extreme poverty.
effusive - Getting a compliment from your effusive Aunt Sally can be a little embarrassing. Since she's so effusive, Aunt Sally holds nothing back, gushing with enthusiasm.
CHAPTER 43 - EPILOGUE
formidable - People who are formidable inspire fear and respect thanks to their size, or special ability, or unusual qualities. If you're a wildly popular celebrity, you probably don't go anywhere without a formidable bodyguard.
grotto - A grotto is a small cave, the kind of place where you feel comfortable, cozy, and protected from the harsh realities outside.
maul - Maul is both the name of a heavy hammer, and also a verb meaning beating and scratching. Tigers, lions, bears––animals with powerful paws and sharp claws, will maul their victims.
anticlimax - If you think you’re approaching the high point, but then realize it’s really the low point, that’s an anticlimax — a moment when excitement quickly changes to disappointment.
cloister - A cloister is an enclosed garden, usually surrounded by covered walkways. Because such spaces are often featured in buildings that house religious orders, cloister can be used to mean "monastery" or "convent."
lattice - A lattice is a decorative wooden frame or fence. Your grandmother's prize garden might include a lattice covered in bright pink roses.
stifling - Something stifling makes you feel suffocated. If your mother insists on accompanying you on your first date, that will probably feel stifling.
querulous - Querulous means “having a tendency to complain” or, more directly put, “whiny.” Sure, no one can be happy all the time, but that’s no excuse for being querulous.
miasma - A miasma is a cloud of foul-smelling vapor, like swamp gas. You could have a miasma of sweat that lingers in a locker room long after a soccer team has left, or a miasma of rumor swirling around a politician.
pliant - The adjective pliant describes something that is capable of being bent. "The teenager showed off her pliant spine every time she draped herself over a piece of furniture. Why hanging upside down off the sofa didn't give her a headache, her mother would never know."
skulk - Skulking is cowardly. It means hiding out, either because you're trying to pull something off in secret, or because you're trying to get out of doing something you're supposed to be doing.
impose - To impose means to force or inflict something on someone else. If you want to impose your musical taste on your parents, play your tunes all day at top volume.
ferocity - Ferocity is the state of being ferocious — wild, scary, and fierce. A five year-old girl pretending to be a lion will display her ferocity by roaring and baring her teeth.
sever - To sever something is to cut it off from the whole. If your girlfriend breaks up with you on your anniversary, you might respond by severing the blossoms off the roses you were planning to give her. (Just an idea.)
contemptuous - If you insult someone or dismiss them in a hateful way, you're being contemptuous. The difference between being hateful and contemptuous is subtle. It involves disdain.
inexorable - When a person is inexorable, they're stubborn. When a thing or process is inexorable, it can't be stopped.
malignant - For something that's very harmful, especially a tumor that's cancerous, use the term malignant.
thither - Use the word thither when you need a colorful way to say "over there." For example, you might point across the street and say, "Let's go thither, to the ice cream shop."
trivet - A small plate or stand that you put a hot serving dish on is called a trivet. Your famous chicken noodle casserole might need to rest on a trivet so you don't burn your kitchen table.
pince-nez - If your costume for the school play includes wearing pince-nez, never fear: all you need is a small pair of spectacles that clip on your nose.
bluster - If you tell the captain of the basketball team that you're going to beat him at a game of hoops even though you've never played, you're speaking with a lot of bluster or false confidence and bravado.
inexhaustible - When something is inexhaustible, you'll never run out of it. If your grandfather appears to have an inexhaustible supply of nostalgic stories, it seems like he could tell them forever.