The full list of definitions can be seen here. Five rotating, fun words for each letter below.
Words for clarity:
- Analgesic: A drug that relieves pain.
- Anneal: To heat and allow it to cool slowly, in order to remove internal stresses and toughen it.
- Anodyne: Not likely to provoke dissent or offense; inoffensive, often deliberately so.
- Apocryphal: A story of doubtful authenticity, circulated as being true.
- Auspicious: Conducive to success; favorable.
- Belie: To give a false impression of; to present an appearance not in agreement with.
- Bête noire: A person or thing that one particularly dislikes.
- Bibulous: Excessively fond of drinking alcohol.
- Bigoteer: Someone who seeks to profit from calling other people bigots, whether it be sexist, racist, etc.
- Bromide: A trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate.
- Cabal: A secret political clique or faction.
- Capacious: Having a lot of space inside; roomy.
- Cat's-paw: A person used to serve the purposes of another.
- Circumspect: Wary and unwilling to take risks.
- Cracker-barrel: A plain, simple, and unsophisticated philosophy.
- Daemon: A supernatural being whose nature is intermediate between that of a god and that of a human being; a subordinate deity, as the genius of a place or a person's attendant spirit; an inner source that always knows.
- Defray: To provide money to pay for a cost or expense.
- Diffident: Modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence.
- Dour: Relentlessly severe, stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance.
- Dysthymia: Persistent mild depression.
- Elegy: A poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.
- Encomium: A speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.
- Enervating: Causing one to feel drained of energy or vitality.
- Ennui: A feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.
- Epiphenomenon: A secondary effect or byproduct that arises from but does not causally influence a process; a mental state regarded as a byproduct of brain activity.
- Facile: Superficial; appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue.
- Fait accompli: A thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it, leaving them with no option but to accept it.
- Feckless: Incompetent; lacking strength of character; irresponsible.
- Fitful: Having an erratic or intermittent character; not regular or steady.
- Flâneur: Someone who, unlike a tourist, makes a decision opportunistically at every step to revise his schedule (or his destination) so he can imbibe things based on new information obtained; an experimenter, a master of trial and error; a self-learner who is never the prisoner of a plan.
- Gaslight: To manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
- Germane: Relevant to a subject under consideration.
- Gestalt: An organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.
- Glib: A person who is fluent and voluble but insincere and shallow.
- Gussy: To make someone or something more attractive, especially in a showy or gimmicky way.
- Haberdasher: A dealer in men's clothing.
- Halcyon: Denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
- Hinterland: The often uncharted areas beyond a coastal district or a river's banks.
- Hispaniola: The island of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
- Huffy: Annoyed or irritated and quick to take offense at petty things.
- Intrepid: Fearless; adventurous.
- Inured: To become accustom to something, especially something unpleasant.
- Inveterate: Having a particular habit, activity, or interest that is long-established and unlikely to change.
- Invictus: Unconquered; strength in the face of adversity; invincible.
- Invidious: An action or situation likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others.
- Jacobin: The most radical and ruthless of the political groups formed in the wake of the French Revolution, and in association with Robespierre they instituted the Terror of 1793–4.
- Judgment: The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.
- Junket: An extravagant trip or celebration, in particular one enjoyed by a government official at public expense.
- Jeremiad: A long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes.
- Kingpin: A main or large bolt in a central position.
- Kleig light: A powerful electric lamp used in filming.
- Knave: A dishonest or unscrupulous man.
- Laconic: Using very few words.
- Lament: A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.
- Leitmotif: A recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.
- Lithe: A thin, supple, and graceful person.
- Luminous: Full of or shedding light; bright or shining, especially in the dark.
- Manumission: Release from slavery.
- Milieu: A person's social environment.
- Mirth: Amusement, especially as expressed in laughter.
- Mollify: To appease the anger or anxiety of someone.
- Mutable: Liable to change.
- Navel-gazing: Self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.
- Nonplussed: Surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react.
- Nostrum: A medicine, especially one that is not considered effective, prepared by an unqualified person.
- Nuance: A quality of something that is not easy to notice but may be important; a very slight difference in appearance, meaning, sound, etc.
- Numinous: Appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense; spiritual or supernatural.
- Obdurate: Stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or course of action.
- Obstinate: Stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.
- Ontology: The study of what things exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped according to similarities and differences.
- Opprobrium: Harsh criticism.
- Out of whole cloth: False; made up.
- Quotidian: Of or occurring every day; daily.
- Perspicacity: The quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.
- Phlegmatic: Having an unemotional and calm disposition.
- Prepossessing: Attractive or appealing in appearance.
- Proscribe: Forbid, especially by law.
- Pyrrhic: A victory won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor.
- Quiddity: The inherent nature or essence of someone or something.
- Quondam: Former; that once was.
- Raison D'être: The most important reason or purpose for someone or something's existence.
- Rapprochement: An establishment or resumption of harmonious relations.
- Reify: To make something abstract more concrete or real.
- Restitution: The restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner.
- Rue: Bitterly regret something one has done or allowed to happen.
- Sardonic: Grimly mocking or cynical.
- Salubrious: Health-giving; healthy.
- Somatic: Relating to the body, especially as distinct from the mind.
- Sublimate: To divert or modify an instinctual impulse into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity.
- Subterfuge: Deceit used in order to achieve one's goal.
- Tautology: The saying of the same thing twice in different words.
- Torpor: A state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy.
- Trenchant: Vigorous or clear-thinking in expression or style.
- Trite: A remark, opinion, or idea that's overused and consequently of little import; lacking originality or freshness.
- Truancy: The action of staying away from school without good reason.
- Uncouth: Lacking good manners, refinement, or grace.
- Unctuous: A person who is excessively or ingratiatingly flattering.
- Untenable: A position or view not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection.
- Untoward: Unexpected and inappropriate or inconvenient.
- Urbane: A courteous and refined person.
- Veritable: Being truly or very much so; being in fact the thing named and not false, unreal, or imaginary.
- Vestibule: A small, enclosed entry chamber that traditionally has served as a buffer in winter between indoors and outdoors.
- Vindictive: Having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge.
- Vis-à-vis: Compared with; as compared with; in relation to, with regard to; face-to-face with.
- Vituperative: Bitter and abusive.
- Wane: To have a progressively smaller part of its visible surface illuminated, so that it appears to decrease in size.
- Waylay: To interrupt someone in conversation or trouble them in some other way.
- Wet blanket / wet noodle: Someone who is not interesting or convivial, or who dampens other people's fun or enjoyment; a killjoy.
- Wistful: Having or showing a feeling of vague or regretful longing.
- Wry: Using or expressing dry, especially mocking, humor.
Words for forming a just society:
- Rawls' Veil of ignorance: "(C)onsider which principles you would select for the basic structure of society, but you must select as if you had no knowledge ahead of time what position you would end up having in that society."
Words for thinking and decision-making:
- A priori: Knowledge based on theoretical deduction rather than empirical observation.
- Ad hominem: An argument directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.
- Anchoring heuristic: Participants observed a roulette wheel that was predetermined to stop on either 10 or 65. Participants were then asked to guess the percentage of the United Nations that were African nations. Participants whose wheel stopped on 10 guessed lower values (25% on average) than participants whose wheel stopped at 65 (45% on average). The pattern has held in other experiments for a wide variety of different subjects of estimation.
- Availability heuristic: A mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision (e.g. shark attacks, plane crashes).
- Fundamental attribution error: The tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others, while under-emphasizing situational explanations.
- Hedonic adaptation: The tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
- Iatrogenic: Illness caused by medical examination or treatment.
- Loss aversion: The tendency, in relationships and in finances, to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains.
- Phronesis: A type of wisdom relevant to practical action, implying both good judgement and excellence of character and habits, sometimes referred to as "practical virtue" or "practical wisdom."
- Overton window: The spectrum of ideas on public policy and social issues considered acceptable by the general public at a given time.
- Posteriori: Knowledge that depends on empirical evidence.
- Representativeness heuristic: A mental shortcut in which people forget base rates, overestimating the likelihood that something will occur. Just because an event or object is representative does not mean its occurrence is more probable (e.g. Sarah loves to listen to New Age music and faithfully reads her horoscope each day. In her spare time, she enjoys aromatherapy and attending a local spirituality group. Based on the description above, is Sarah more likely to be a school teacher or a holistic healer?)
- Specious: Superficially plausible, but actually wrong.
- Sophistry: An argument apparently correct in form but actually invalid.
- Sunk cost fallacy: Remaining in failing relationships because of prior investments of time and energy.
Words with interesting roots:
- Decide: "To cut off."
- Essay: "To try."
- Passion: "To suffer."
- Quit: "To free” or “to release."